England ran in five tries to set up a startling 34-10 victory against France in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Sunday.
New Zealand-born centre Riki Flutey crossed France’s line twice and England also scored tries through Mark Cueto, Delon Armitage and Joe Worsley as they turned in their best performance during Martin Johnson’s reign as manager.
And England even managed to get through a match without having a player sin-binned after a run of 10 yellow cards in their four previous fixtures.
England, much criticised for a lack of attacking flair during defeats by Wales and Ireland, had this match all but won at the break at 29-0 after scoring four tries in an astonishing first-half.
They opened their account after just 67 seconds.
France No.8 Imanol Harinordoquy knocked on from the kick-off and England regained possession.
Off the back of a ruck, Flutey broke down the blindside and burst through a gap between France back-row Sebastien Chabal and lock Jerome Thion.
Flutey then stood up France full-back Maxime Medard before delivering a superb pass for wing Cueto who went in under the posts for a try which Toby Flood converted.
Scrum-half Morgan Parra then missed France’s only chance of points in the opening period when he pulled a penalty wide of the posts.
But for much of this match it was France who found themselves repeatedly getting on the wrong side of Australian referee Stuart Dickinson.
And when they did make incursions into the England 22 their forwards were unable to secure a supply of quick ball.
By contrast recalled England blindside flanker Tom Croft starred in both the loose and at the lineout.
Flood extended England’s lead with a penalty and, in the 23rd minute, England had their second try.
From a lineout, No 8 Nick Easter charged forward and Flood’s inside pass found Cueto, who’d come off his wing and he in turn delivered a superb ‘blind’, defence-splitting pass to Flutey.
England, now 17-0 up, added two more tries before the interval.
After the ball was hacked down field, England laid siege to the France line before full-back Armitage made no mistake on the overlap.
France had barely got their breath back when scrum-half Harry Ellis’s long punt had them back-pedalling again.
Flood almost got to the line but slipped – and in the process sustained a shoulder injury which saw him replaced at half-time by Andy Goode – but from the ruck, flanker Worsley crossed on another well-worked overlap.
Armitage took over the kicking duties and missed the conversion but England were still 29-0 ahead.
And barely a minute into the second-half, England had their fifth try and Flutey his second.
France fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc lost the ball in a tackle by Ellis and this gave Armitage the chance to make a thrilling burst down the left, with Chabal left trailing in his wake.
Armitage, showing fine composure, found Flutey who, half-tackled, just had enough momentum to go over the line.
Goode missed the conversion but on a day when under-fire England captain Steve Borthwick was enjoying himself at the lineout, home fans hardly cared.
Now the only question was whether France would remain pointless.
They avoided that indignity when, after a quick tap and go penalty set up a ruck near England’s line, hooker Dimitri Szarzewski plunged over.
France wing Julien Malzieu reduced the visitors’ deficit with their second try but this was England’s day.
This article appeared in www.rugbyheaven.co.auTweet