The French reign drop by drop

Paul Grayson, the England fly-half, tells how the match was lost by a fingertip
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The Independent Online
IN THE final reckoning it all came down to a couple of inches. That was the difference between an English win in Paris and the agonising defeat we suffered. The dropped goal that won France the contest caught my fingertips but went over. In contrast, my first drop attempt caught a French hand and was deflected on to the upright.

Nobody needs to talk to me about the miniscule difference separating success and failure at this level. I experienced it out on the Parc des Princes. Castaignede's kick slipped through my fingers. Two inches more flesh on leather and we would have avoided defeat - and who could argue we didn't deserve to.

The Parc is the most imposing arena I've ever played in. The wall of sound is everything it's made out to be. At one point, Matt Dawson was standing two feet away and didn't realise I was yelling at him. The atmosphere was threatening, intimidating even. Yet we blooded seven players out there, all of whom gave good accounts and at no point in the game did I think we would lose; at least not until that final kick. It was a devastating blow to be robbed. I would have given anything for 10 minutes more to retrieve the situation.

However, we must be positive because there was so much good in the English performance. We were defensively very strong, we kept our discipline for probably 98 per cent of the game - even if that two per cent probably cost us dear - and we ran the ball with purpose. In fact, we made a very, very good French side look ordinary at times and we probably played the better rugby.

In the first 30 seconds we ripped them apart. Our intention was to win the game by moving the ball whenever the opportunity presented itself. That it came inside the first minute made no difference. It was only sad that neither Rory [Underwood] nor Mike [Catt] got the scores.

On another day a performance like that will earn a more fitting reward. Against Wales at Twickenham in a fortnight would be nice. But we didn't come here to stuff it up the critics or prove people wrong. When you get out on to the field you play for each other and for your country. We tried to win in the best way we knew how and we just came up short. But we proved to ourselves we are capable of playing a good brand of rugby. The future is bright.