Rugby-Only one try but England enjoy 'winning ugly'

Reuters

Sat, 26 Feb 20:55:00 2011

After the eight-try fireworks of the Italy match it was back to basics for England on Saturday and Martin Johnson was delighted at how his side stood toe to toe with France before emerging with a 17-9 victory.

There was only one try, scored by fullback Ben Foden early in the second half, but it proved pivotal as it pulled England clear from a 9-9 halftime logjam.

When Jonny Wilkinson came off the bench to add three points with a penalty with his first touch of the ball England suddenly had clear water and though there was half an hour remaining the hosts held their eight-point advantage to the end.

It was a completely different match from when England blew Italy away 59-13 but against a French team who had won their last eight Six Nations matches and who England could well face again in the World Cup quarter-finals later this year, it was infinitely more important.

"What happened two weeks ago (against Italy) was the exception," Johnson told reporters. "Today was ferocious. They were hard on the ball, we lost a scrum, there were turnovers - though we didn't help ourselves in the first half.

"Matches like this are won by good fundamentals.

"We didn't play well in the first half but we changed it at halftime. When we got that eight-point lead in a game like that it's big. After that we kept our shape and defended well."

TRY DENIED

Captain Mike Tindall, who had one of the best games of his long career and was denied a late try by the referee who ruled an infringement, was similarly impressed.

"It was a good, old-fashioned physical battle," said the centre, who has led the team to three wins in his three games in charge.

"When they flooded the midfield we knew we had to change things around but sometimes you have to win ugly and sometimes you have to enjoy that.

"We probably forced too much, especially in the first half, but it's a sign of a team who are progressing that we could have a quiet controlled talk and sort it out.

"At halftime we said 'let's play at our tempo' and we looked a lot better in the second half.

"I look at the South Africa match (a 21-11 defeat in November) which is a good comparison. This time we were able to change it, we played territory better in the second half and came away with points when we got into the red zone.

"We made our adjustments and reacted really well to some of the things and that shows the maturity of the team."

England now face Scotland at home before finishing off with a tough trip to Ireland and Johnson, who captained the team to their last title - and a grand slam - in 2003 was in no mood to start talking about another clean sweep.

"What's the point, it's ridiculous," he said. "You talk about that after the last game."

 

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