|Six Nations Championship|
|England: (30) 44|
|Tries: May 3, Slade, penalty try, Farrell Con: Farrell 3 Pens: Farrell 2|
|France: (8) 8|
|Tries: Penaud Pens: Parra|
England blew France away with a first-half hat-trick of tries from Jonny May to continue their fabulous start to the Six Nations.
May went over three times in the left-hand corner in the first 30 minutes as England’s forwards steamrollered France and their backs’ kicking game cut them apart.
Eddie Jones’ men added two more in the second half, one through the relentless Owen Farrell and the other a penalty try after Chris Ashton had been brought down without the ball.
France had no answer to England’s physicality, their back three turned inside out by the constant kicks rained in behind them, and their appalling run at Twickenham goes on.
England have now won 10 of their last 13 Six Nations matches against France, Les Bleus on a horrible run of eight defeats in their last nine with the two sides due to meet at the group stages of this autumn’s World Cup.
With Italy and Scotland to come at home next month – one who have never won at this stadium, the other not in 36 years – the clash against Wales in Cardiff in a fortnight’s time is shaping up to be the decisive match in this year’s championship.
May Day comes early
England had scored early tries in each of their past five matches and they accelerated out of the blocks once again.
The men in white counter-attacked after a French knock-on, Daly cut a swathe through the scattered French rearguard and kicked ahead into acres of space for May to race clear and touch the loose ball down.
Farrell slid the conversion wide but banged over a penalty either side of a straightforward one for Morgan Parra for 11-3, and as a rain squall blew in on the cold wind, both sides looked to kick into space in their opponent’s back field.
And it was May who struck again. Farrell’s long miss-pass after a series of heavyweight drives at the French line left the winger one on one with Damian Penaud but standing still, yet he stepped his opposite number with insouciance to dance into the corner.
With less than half an hour gone he had his hat-trick as England’s thundering forwards left the French defensive line reeling before Ashton dabbed the ball into the empty spaces behind for May to sprint through and slide across the try-line.
Yoann Huget worked an opening down the England right for Penaud to dive into the corner, but it was the briefest of interruptions as yet another kick through put Ashton in the clear.
The 31-year-old was hauled down a metre from the line but prop Kyle Sinckler spun a scrum-half’s pass out left for Henry Slade to step inside Guilhem Guirado.
England had their fourth try and a bonus-point before the half-time whistle had been blown, Farrell sliding over his conversion for 30-8 and the cavorting home crowd giving their side a standing ovation as they jogged for the dressing room.
England find consistency to bolster belief
It was to get worse for France. Slade picked off a loose pass on a rare French foray into England’s 22, and when he kicked ahead for the galloping Ashton, Gael Fickou’s desperate chase ended with him hauling down his opposite number without the ball.
Referee Nigel Owens ran to the posts to signal a penalty try and then sent Fickou to the sin-bin to compound the visitors’ woes.
France were on the ropes and it was Farrell to land the next blow, following up his own kick after Ben Youngs took a quick penalty and May could not quite gather for yet another try.
There was a question of whether May had hooked an arm around Antoine Dupont as they fought for the loose ball, just as there had been about how likely Ashton would have been to score without Fickou’s illegal intervention, but with a 34-point lead and more than a quarter of the contest still to come, England did not care.
Courtney Lawes brought another roar as he sent the giant Mathieu Bastareaud backwards in the tackle before the intensity dipped as Jones threw on his replacements.
Four years ago England stuck 55 points on France and yet later that year crashed out of the World Cup at the group stages.
But after backing up last week’s impressive win over Ireland in Dublin with this performance, their supporters will be believing that this time around might be different.
Man of the Match – Jonny May
View from the gantry
Former England international and BBC Radio 5 live pundit Matt Dawson said: “It was ominous for France even after a minute.
“England are better drilled than last year, I think they are doing things earlier in fewer phases and in better positions.
“England were brilliant but France kept going, they didn’t throw the towel in. It was complete control from England for most of the 80 minutes though.
“The game in Cardiff has enormous consequences. Don’t underestimate Wales, they don’t need motivating. They will be fully pumped.”
England: Daly; Ashton, Slade, Tuilagi, May, Farrell, Youngs; M Vunipola, George, Sinckler, Lawes, Kruis, Wilson, Curry, B Vunipola
Replacements: Moon for M Vunipola (44), Launchbury for Kruis (47), Hughes for Curry (47), Nowell for Ashton (52), Cole for Sinckler (57), Cowan-Dickie for George (62), Ford for Tuilagi (62)
France: Huget; Penaud, Bastareaud, Doumayrou, Fickou; Lopez, Parra; Poirot, Guirado, Bamba, Vahaamhina, Lambey, Camara, Iturria, Picamoles
Replacements: Ramos for Huget (41), Ntamack for Penaud (47), Dupont for Parra (47), Aldegheri for Bamba (57), Willemse for Vahaamhina, Alldritt for Lambey (70)
Not used: Bourgarit, Priso
Ref: Nigel Owens (Wales)