Te'o stars as Six Nations kings England edge France

England 19-16 France

Te'o stars as Six Nations kings England edge France

Te'o stars as Six Nations kings England edge France

Stefan Wermuth

REUTERS

Defending champions England scraped past France 19-16, in a game where they played ugly but did enough to win. Warriors @ Cavaliers

Replacement back Ben Te'o's try nine minutes from time saw England beat France 19-16 on Saturday as they launched their Six Nations title defence with a national record 15th successive victory. A lacklustre England were in trouble at 16-12 behind after France replacement Rabah Slimani scored the game's first try on the hour mark at Twickenham.

Ben Te'o goes over to win it for England

France couldn't hold on

France, edged out by Australia and world champions New Zealand in November, could not hold on once again, with Te'o's 71st-minute try, converted by Owen Farrell, proving decisive.

Victory saw this England side surpass the previous national best of 14 wins in a row they had shared with the 2002-03 side that went on to win the 2003 World Cup.

Scrappy first half

A scrappy and try-less first half which saw England wing Jonny May sin-binned for a dangerous tackle ended all square at 9-9.

France fly-half Camille Lopez's three successful penalties were cancelled out by two from England centre Owen Farrell and a huge 48-metre kick by Elliot Daly.

Another Farrell penalty made it 12-9 before the tries arrived in the closing stages to preserve Australian coach Eddie Jones's perfect record as England boss.

England coach Jones far from impressed

However, a far from impressed Jones told BBC Radio: "We were disjointed in attack and we lacked urgency in defence.

"I felt some players were still in their club mentality...I don't think I prepared the team as well as I could have done.

"We want to be attacking but the try we scored was a fantastic effort," added Jones, denied several first-choice forwards through injury.

Picamoles man of the match 

France's Louis Picamoles was named man-of-the-match but that was scant consolation for the No 8.

"It was a very good performance from us but we lose again," he said. "We need to win and continue to work hard but it's a good performance."

France were quick out of the blocks in front of the packed Twickenham crowd, with Fiji-born wing Virimi Vakatawa launching an attack. Lopez then kicked a penalty before Farrell responded in kind.

Dangerous tackle from May

England were a man down in the 13th minute. With World Rugby having announced a crackdown on dangerous tackles, May was sent to the sin-bin by Australian referee Angus Gardner for 'lifting' France centre Gael Fickou.

Lopez kicked the penalty and added another in the 20th minute to make it 9-3.

Farrell then cut the deficit with his second penalty after May had returned.

Game opens up

The game then started to open up with France's South Africa-born fullback Scott Spedding launching wing Noa Nakataici, like Vakatawa originally from Fiji, down the right only for England scrum-half Ben Youngs to counter-attack on the break.

Lopez missed a long-range kick but Daly's mammoth effort drew England level at 9-9.

There was still time left in the half for France to test England's defence as Vakatawa and Spedding combined before Lopez switched play with a clever cross-kick.

 But May held up the onrushing French backs and Maro Itoje's good breakdown work secured a relieving penalty.

Second half: England v France

England's scrum won a penalty early in the second half but Farrell's effort came back off the post.

England centre Jonathan Joseph then chipped over the defence but he was beaten to the touchdown by talented France scrum-half Baptiste Serin.

Minutes later, England came even closer to a try but Nakaitaci forced Daly into touch.

Sustained England pressure resulted in a simple penalty chance inside the 22 and Farrell made no mistake.

France, however, continued to threaten and the visitors scored a deserved try when, after a jinking run by Lopez, flanker Kevin Gourdon sent in Slimani for a score by the posts.

Lopez converted and France led by four points.

England push for victory

But it was front row Slimani who gave away a scrum penalty that set up an England line-out inside France's 22.

Itoje, playing at blindside flanker in place of the injured Chris Robshaw rather than his usual lock position, won the set-piece but Farrell slipped as the ball went through the backs.

England retained their composure and, later in the move, Farrell's pass found Te'o -- who had only been on the field a few minutes as one of several replacements sent on by Jones -- and he went in from close range on the over-lap.

Farrell converted and England saw out the closing minutes.

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