The skies fell. Minutes before the start of the match, the weather suddenly turned at Twickenham, heralding a dark evening. But the fans gathered at the home of English rugby could never have anticipated the magnitude of the rout awaiting their national team. At the end of “one of [our] most successful matches,” as full-back Thomas Ramos put it, the French men’s rugby team had scored a historic win over England (53-10) on Saturday, March 11.
“You destroyed us. It was brutal! You started strong, and right from the beginning, we knew we didn’t stand a chance,” an English supporter mourned in the stadium after the game, more dazed than disappointed. Never in over 150 years had English rugby suffered such a defeat at home. (There have only been two worse losses.)
Unlike the very cordial agreement displayed the day before in Paris between Emmanuel Macron and Rishi Sunak, it was quickly very clear that the French had not come to Twickenham to be diplomatic. Less than two minutes had passed when Ramos interrupted the opening chants of the English fans, scoring the first try of the evening from a 60-meter throw-in. Six more followed for Les Bleus, solid through to the final whistle, with Damian Penaud scoring twice in the last eight minutes to equal Thibaud Flament and Charles Ollivon.
‘A perfect day at Twickenham’
“It was a perfect day at Twickenham, that’s rare,” noted French coach Fabien Galthié after the match. Everything went well for his troops on Saturday in the “temple of rugby,” where France had not won an official match since 2005. Nothing could spoil the evening for Les Bleus, whether it be scratching; rebounding; trickery (like Ollivon’s second try, grounding a ball “borrowed” from an Englishman in the end zone); or even the torrential rain that arrived after 15 minutes of play.
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The French settled the match inside the first half, handing a textbook defeat to an English team that was overwhelmed and left scratching its head. “When you start out strong like that and you’re facing a team that’s a little uncertain, you can feel the edge you have over them,” said third-row forward François Cros, satisfied that he and his teammates kept up the pace from start to finish, unlike many of the tournament’s games this year. “Tonight, everything was in place, and it made for a great game.”
It’s hard to imagine a better game than a win with such a large margin and in such a legendary setting. “We’d been a bit caught in the middle since the start of the tournament, with the defeat in Ireland,” said Ramos. “We knew we were capable of better. Today, we showed what the team is made of.” For the Toulouse back, “matches like this give the team the confidence we need.” After “stumbling in Ireland” in the second game of the competition (19-32), as Cros said, Les Bleus have improved their point spread and are still in contention to keep their title.
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