Menieu sent off as England excel

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The Independent Online
England A 29

France A 9

More of this kind of rugby at Twickenham this afternoon will do England perfectly. Two tries of sensational brilliance, a palate-tickling hors d'oeuvre to today's main course, put the A team en route to last night's record victory at Leicester.

By the end the French crumbled under the twin assaults of an outstanding England effort and an inimical Irish referee until finally, at the last scrum of the match, Alan Lewis sent off Emmanual Menieu for butting Chris Clark seconds after Clark had replaced Darren Garforth. Menieu seems to be some kind of A-game recidivist: last season he was suspended for five months after being dismissed against Wales at this level.

As for England, this is the way the seniors say they want to play through the championship and to the World Cup. As the French fielded eight full internationals to England's three, it was an especially fine achievement leaving England with six wins in this series to France's four.

It is to Neil Back's disadvantage that the senior management were in London rather than watching at Welford Road, because they would have seen an archetypal performance of supreme creativity - the sort of thing that made Kitch Christie, the Springboks' coach, wish Back were a South African.

The player's inability to break into the England side, for no more than two caps last season anyway, may soon have him wishing the same as Christie, but for now he can do no more than his best and last night his best was good enough both to rescue England in defence and, still more, give them the equivalent of an extra threequarter in attack.

This was perfectly demonstrated in the second try, but by then England had already scored one gem, Paul Hull starting by spearheading a counter-attack and then finishing by giving the scoring pass to Mark Regan after the ball had gone through Potter, Hopley, Dallaglio, Garforth, Bates and Harris.

Hull - bouncing back from the disappointment of losing his England place - also played the penultimate part in the second try. Dallaglio, Back, Greenstock, Hopley and Bates were involved before Back threw a cut-out pass that missed the centres and found Sleightholme, whose one-two with Hull gave him the try.

France never recovered from the crushing double disappointment of conceding these tries. Jez Harris, who had opened England's scoring with a drop goal, converted both and added a penalty and the best the visitors could manage was three first-half penalties by a matinee idol of the past, Denis Charvet.

Four long years have passed since Charvet played for France and his presence - though not his performance - was a reminder of past glories. These days he really is a would-be film star; hence his move to Paris to play for the celebrated Racing Club.

Charvet was, however, interested to discover on perusing last night's match programme that his former clubs did not, as he had thought, number Cahors and Toulouse but rather Milton Keynes, an exquisite slip of an editor's pen but, of course, totally apocryphal. The delights of Bucks and Oxon League One could not possibly have prepared him for such a hiding as this.

In the second half England's rugby was more prosaic but scarcely less effective and French confidence drained away in a series of frustrations and gestures, leading to the unholy climax involving Menieu, as they allowed the referee to get them down and Harris to extend the English lead with two penalties and his second drop goal.

England: Tries Regan, Sleightholme; Conversions Harris 2; Penalties Harris 3; Drop goals Harris 2. France: Penalties Charvet 3.

ENGLAND A: P Hull (Bristol); D Hopley, N Greenstock (Wasps), S Potter (Leicester), J Sleightholme (Bath); J Harris (Leicester), S Bates (Wasps, capt); R Hardwick (Coventry), M Regan (Bristol), D Garforth (Leicester), G Archer (Newcastle Gosforth), S Shaw(Bristol), L Dallaglio (Wasps), A Diprose (Saracens), N Back (Leicester). Replacements: H Thorneycroft (Northampton) for Hopley, 64; C Clark (Bath) for Garforth, 78.

FRANCE A: O Campan (Agen); W Techoueyres (Bordeaux Univ), S Loubsens (Mont-de-Marsan), P Carbonneau (Toulouse), L Arbo (Perpignan); D Charvet (Racing Club), A Hueber (Toulon, capt); E Menieu (Montferrand), F Landreau (Grenoble), P Gallart (Beziers), A Berthozat (Begles), C Deslandes (Racing Club), L Loppy (Toulon), S Dispagne (Narbonne), A Costes (Montferrand). Temporary substitute: G Orsoni (Toulon) for Loppy, 28-36.

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).