/ Rugby

Dominant French send England crashing out

Updated: Saturday, 08 Oct 2011 12:24

France responded well to surprise defeat to Tonga
France responded well to surprise defeat to Tonga

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England crashed out of the Rugby World Cup after France booked a semi-final clash with Wales with a comprehensive 19-12 victory in their quarter-final.

The French, seemingly in disarray all week after their pool defeat to Tonga, surged into a 16-0 lead with first-half tries from Vincent Clerc and Maxime Medard.

Ben Foden responded with a touchdown in a better second half for England but France edged further ahead with a drop goal from Francois Trinh-Duc.

And although Mark Cueto wrestled his way over the line for a second England try in the closing minutes, the dye had already been cast.

The tone was set early when Foden's grubber kick forced France to concede a lineout just five metres out - only for England to lose it on their own throw.

There ended a bright start, which had seen twin playmakers Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood involved as England looked to get the ball to Manu Tuilagi as often as possible.

France cleared their lines after Lionel Nallet had stolen the ball and, when Flood was penalised for not releasing, Dimitri Yachvili drilled the first of two penalties.

It was just the boost they needed.

Wilkinson's restart went straight out and England were on the back foot again, with Foden having to produce a magnificent try-saving tackle on Clerc.

Yachvili snatched a drop-goal attempt but punished Matt Stevens when the England prop was penalised for collapsing a scrum.

England, whose discipline was being sorely tested, lost another lineout and paid the ultimate penalty as Clerc scythed through some weak defence to score the opening try.

The France wing evaded Wilkinson's tackle and then shrugged off Ben Youngs and Foden to score.

England were losing their composure. A dreadful pass from Youngs butchered one attacking opportunity and Tuilagi's midfield break was wasted when Cueto knocked on out wide.

Louis Deacon was penalised for offside as England invited more pressure on themselves. France piled forward again and Medard scored their second try.

Thierry Dusautoir's drive had put France on the front foot and, with advantage being played, Morgan Parra spun the ball wide to Palisson, who drew Foden and offloaded for Medard to score.

England finished the first half in calamitous fashion.

A fine run from Nick Easter and a Chris Ashton break down the wing had France under pressure and Youngs looked to attack the blindside.

But the scrum-half's pass hit Cueto, who was retreating and not even looking at the play despite England being just five metres out.

England had one more chance before the interval and made a mess of that too when Wilkinson picked up a loose ball but flung an off-balance pass over Ashton's head and into touch.

England upped the tempo at the start of the second period but their execution remained flawed until Flood picked out Foden and the full-back stepped inside to score under the posts.

Wilkinson converted - his first shot at goal in 55 minutes - and England sensed a lifeline but they were panicking.

Ashton collected an inside ball and spun his way over the gainline before Youngs put Flood through a gap - but instead of holding onto possession he threw a chancy offload that was intercepted.

Tuilagi gave England go-forward again, Cueto linked well with Tom Palmer down the left and Flood made another half-break but again attempted the miracle pass. Again France hacked clear.

Trinh-Duc wrapped up the victory with a drop-goal after some disciplined forward work from Les Bleus.

England refused to go down quietly and Matt Banahan's break stretched the French, Flood stabbed a kick through for Shaw and Cueto scrambled for the line.

Clerc did his best to hold up the England wing but the try was eventually awarded by the television match official. Flood missed the conversion but it was academic.

England were going home. France were marching on.

Martin Johnson refused to answer questions over his future after the game.

Asked about his future, Johnson said: "I'm not getting into that conversation now. It's not the right place or the right people or the right time.

"We'll see. I'll give it a couple of days, assess myself and how we've been."

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