England vs France result: Jonny May scores hat-trick in six-try Six Nations rout at Twickenham

England equalled their biggest ever victory over France with a 44-8 demolition at Twickenham that reinforced why they have become the favourites to claim the Six Nations trophy, with Jonny May’s 30-minute hat-trick laying the platform for what will be a mammoth encounter in Cardiff in a fortnight’s time.

In truth England were never troubled as they went top of the Six Nations table, two points clear of the Welsh, as May opened his account after just one minute and four seconds. His hat-trick was in the bag merely 28 minutes later. Henry Slade added his third try in two matches before the break to wrap up the bonus point inside 40 minutes, and with Owen Farrell adding to a penalty try in the second half, England recorded a second emphatic victory hot off the heels of last weekend’s Dublin demolition job.

France momentarily lit up the field with a beautiful try from Damian Penaut, but for the other 79-and-a-half minutes they were nowhere near the level expected of the French national team, and the boos that greeted head coach Jacques Brunel towards the end of the game said everything you need to know about the current state of French rugby.

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Few gave France much of a chance against an on-form England side with the bookies giving the home side a 14-point advantage, but no one expect that gap to be built in under half an hour – and by May single-handedly.

England’s resurgence this season has been built around their lightning-fast starts, and once again they did not disappoint. Just 1:04 was on the clock when May rushed onto an Elliot Daly kick deep, and the complete absence of any back-field defenders became a feature of the first half.


Six Nations: England vs France player ratings





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Who knew that playing two centres on the wing and a wing at full-back would lead to a complete breakdown in communication. Whenever Yoann Huget or Damian Penaud were sucked into the line – normally by a long or high kick – England would flood that way again to set up May time and time again.

His second try came from smart England play, as both Manu Tuilagi and Tom Curry crashed the ball up before Kyle Sinckler made precious forward ground to within yards of the line. Sensing the panic among the French, Farrell wrapped back round to the short side, sent a miss-pass to May, and despite being stopped in his tracks to catch it, his footwork to shimmy one way, then the other and back again to completely befuddle Penaud allowed him to dot down in the corner.

Farrell missed both conversions but two penalties kept the scoreboard rolling, and before the half-hour was up May had his hat-trick. France initially defended well to recover their composure in defence after a break down the right, leaving Daly to send up a high kick. But when Morgan Parra knocked the catch forwards, Chris Ashton gathered and sent a delicate chip in behind for May to gather one-handed as he slid for the line. The confidence was flowing and England sensed the bonus point.

But it was France who surprised everyone here by securing the next score – and what a try it was. Taking the ball deep, full-back Huget broke the tackles of both Tuilagi and Ashton, and when he committed Daly his pass with to Penaud sent the Clermont back over in the corner as he just outpaced the recovering Ashton.

Was this the start of a French revival? No. Within five minutes they were back beneath their posts. A smart kick behind the French ruck found no one at home and Ashton raced through to gather, only for Gael Fickou to stop him inches short of the line. With Youngs AWOL, Sinckler played scrum-half and resisted any urge to go it alone by passing wide-left to Slade, whose simple step off his left foot did for Guilhem Guirado and sent him over for his third try in two weeks and the bonus point by half-time.

Jacques Brunel responded by hauling off Huget and sending on Thomas Ramos for his debut, and for a brief period is stemmed the flow of tries. That was until France’s new-found ability to hold onto the ball deserted them as Camille Lopez’ flat pass was intercepted by Slade. Knowing he could not go the distance with Fickou in close company, he kicked ahead for Ashton to chase. The Sale win glooked to have overrun the ball as he tried to fly-hack it on, but when Fickou tackled him without the ball, referee Nigel Owens immediately went under the sticks for the penalty try and sent Fickou to the sin-bin for good measure. It was generous by all accounts.

Owens was left needing the help of the Television Match Official Glenn Newman again minutes later when a melee broke out between the two sets of forwards. Jamie George went through the advertising hoardings at the hands of Sebastian Vahaamahina, while Sinckler held up his arms innocently. True to form, Sinckler’s slap on the head of Arthur Itrurria was the catalyst for the flash-point, and he was given a ticking off as a result.

Newman was at it again minutes later when England believed they scored their sixth try. When Tuilagi was hit high by Demba Bamba, Farrell went quickly to catch the French napping. He kicked to the right corner and triggered a foot race between May and replacement scrum-half Antoine Dupont. Despite May’s astonishing pace as he raced from left to right, Dupont just got their first, only to knock the ball back and allow Farrell to dive on it to score.

As both sides emptied their replacements there was a favourable debut for the Wasps scrum-half Dan Robson, but England could not find the final try that would take them to the half-century.

Instead, they now look ahead to the mouth-watering trip to Cardiff on 23 February that will make of break their Grand Slam chances.

Teams

England: Elliot Daly; Chris Ashton, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May; Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler; Courtney Lawes, George Kruis; Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ben Moon, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Nathan Hughes, Dan Robson, George Ford, Jack Nowell.

France: Yoann Huget; Damian Penaud, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Gael Fickou; Camille Lopez, Morgan Parra; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado, Demba Bamba; Sebastien Vahaamahina, Felix Lambey, Yannick Camara, Arthur Iturria, Louis Picamoles.

Replacements: Pierre Bougarit, Dany Priso, Dorian Aldegheri, Paul Willemse, Gregory Alldritt, Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack, Thomas Ramos.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

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