ENGLAND COUNTIES 27 FRANCE FEDERALE 7
CINDERFORD’s Jack Adams and Ben West helped England Counties regain the inaugural Jean Claude Baque trophy for the first time since 2009.
Former Forester and Counties captain Rory Teague led from the front after kicking 17 points in a bruising encounter at Ealing.
The Blackheath fly half’s haul was bolstered by tries either side of the interval from wingers Old Albanians’ Ollie Marchon and Rosslyn Park’s Nev Edwards.
England maintained the majority of first half possession and looked impressive in attack despite ferocious tackles from the French who proved dangerous on the counter.
A strong forwards performance was required to withstand the visitors’ aggressive play at the breakdown and man of the match was deservedly awarded to prop Robbie Kalbraier.
France started the more dominant of the two teams and it looked like it could be a long night for the home side when they powered into the English 22, moving the ball through the phases before driving over the line through Anthony Potente after ten minutes. Julien Lavie added the extras.
A successful penalty by Teague minutes later gave England their first points but two try saving tackles were required from full back Peter Hodgkinson as France continued their relentless attack - taking the ball low and at speed into the contact to break through the English defence before sending the ball wide.
After absorbing the pressure England then exerted their own and after good running from Billy Johnson and Adams, England were rewarded with two penalties to take the lead.
With five minutes of the half left to play Mark George and Sam Shires offloaded well out of the tackle to keep the ball alive and release Adams who kicked towards the corner.
France misread the bounce and Marchon who was speeding up in attack controlled the ball over the line to touch down, Teague converted to extend the lead to 18-7.
England continued their sharp attacking display in the second half, capitalising on the spaces opening up in the French defence.
A long looping ball by Chris Elder was taken well by Adams who, with a two on one, released Edwards to cross in the corner.
Two penalties from Teague in the final quarter put the game beyond France but they pushed hard for a late consolation score.
Fervent defence from England right into extra time kept the visitors at bay and summed up an all-round impressive and passionate performance.
Head Coach Jan Bonney said: ‘It is a fantastic win, our defence in the second half was outstanding. It was absolutely freezing out there but everyone played their part - it was an immense effort by the boys up front and the backs looked slick.
“The players were disappointed after the Ireland game but they have had extra time together and their camaraderie made a massive difference, they worked hard and put their bodies on the line for each other tonight.”
England Counties XV: 15. Peter Hodgkinson (Ealing); 14. Ollie Marchon (Old Albanian), 13. Jack Adams (Cinderford), 12. Scott Barrow (Fylde), 11. Nev Edwards (Rosslyn Park); 10. Rory Teague (Blackheath, Captain), 9. Matt Heeks (Rosslyn Park); 1. Robbie Kalbraier (Blaydon), 2. Matt Hall (Blaydon), 3. Mark George (Stourbridge); 4. Will Warden (Richmond), 5. Ben West (Cinderford); 6. Billy Johnson (Old Albanian), 7. Dave Allen (Blackheath), 8. Sam Shires (Ealing). Replacements: 16. David Dickinson (Tynedale) on for Mark George after 67 minutes; 17. Tom Fidler (Cambridge) on for Robbie Kalbraier after 65 minutes; 18. Chris Wearmouth (Blaydon) on for Billy Johnson after 55 minutes; 19. JP Attlee (Richmond) on for Dave Allen after 52 minutes; 20. Lewis Barker (Coventry) on for Matt Heeks after 75 minutes; 21. Chris Elder (Esher) on for Scott Barrow after 33 minutes; 22. Will Hurrell (Stourbridge) on for Ollie Marchon after 65 minutes.
15. Rémi Lamarque; 14. Fabrice Tao; 13. Anthony Frenet; 12. Thomas Anies; 11. Pierre Lafitte; 10. Julien Lavie; 9. Paul Dubert; 1. Arnaud Ramey; 2. Alban Viozelange; 3. Teva Make; 4. Benoit Senac; 5. Anthony Potente; 6. Louis Bezert; 7. Guillaume Geledan; 8.Julien Capdeillayre ©; 16. Jean Philippe Jacouton; 17. Rémi Escudier; 18. Kevin Kahn; 19. Romain Souquet; 20. Jean François Cruzalebes; 21. Thomas Trautmann; 22. Stéphane Bonvalot