Saturday evening saw the curtain come down on the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, and Super Saturday certainly didn’t disappoint.
With three sides still in contention for Championship glory at the start of the day, it was always destined to be one of the closest finishes to the competition in recent history, with England eventually taking home the crown.
Ireland and France went head to head in the final match of the day, with Les Bleus running out 35-27 winners in Paris, but ultimately fell short of Eddie Jones’ side on points difference.
It was another eye-catching performance from Fabien Galthié’s dynamic, enthralling side, who will be cursing their luck after coming so close to top spot in the overall standings.
We have been treated to a whole raft of scintillating scores from France during this year’s Championship, and here we take a look at six of the best they have had to offer.
Charles Ollivon vs England
It took just 60 minutes of Guinness Six Nations action for us all to stand up and take notice of how destructive this French side could be, as they took apart England with ease in their opening match of the Championship.
Two first-half scores from Vincent Rattez and Charles Ollivon saw the hosts take a 17-0 lead in front of a rapturous Stade de France crowd, but they saved their best until last as Ollivon got his second of the game.
It may have been the flanker whose name is on the scoresheet, but this one wouldn’t have been possible without the brilliance of Antoine Dupont in Paris, with the deadly dynamo tearing through the English defence.
The diminutive No.9 takes just one step to wrong-foot the whole of the visitors’ backline, as he leaves a number of white shirts in his wake, before feeding Ollivon to head to the try line, seeing off the attention of Ben Youngs in the process.
It was a sign of things to come for Galthie’s side throughout the Championship, as they continued to race up a number of sizzling scores in the weeks to come.
Romain Ntamack vs Italy
It seemed to be a matter of what Dupont can do, Toulouse-teammate Romain Ntamack can do just as well throughout the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, with the club teammates shining on the international stage.
Round 2 saw France host Italy in Paris and gave Les Bleus the chance to really flex their muscles in the Championship’s early stages, with the flair and creativity in full flow across the field.
Ntamack provided a prime example of how devastating he can be just before the hour mark in this one, as he put the game to bed with a scintillating individual score.
As the French attacking maul came to a standstill on the Italian 22, it took just two passes to find the hands of the rapid fly-half, who found the gap in the Azzurri backline before weaving his way past the despairing dives of would-be tacklers en route to the try line.
The Toulouse man finished with a Championship-high 57 points from his five matches, as he impressed with ball in hand and with the boot.
Baptiste Serin vs Italy
The win may have been sewn up against the Italians, but that didn’t stop Baptiste Serin from storming his way to a fifth try late in the game to add some gloss to the scoreline.
The scrum-half had only come on to replace Dupont two minutes earlier but made his mark on the game almost immediately with some quick-thinking to bamboozle the visitors’ backline.
With referee Andrew Brace blowing for a French penalty on halfway, Serin wasted no time in taking a quick tap to catch his opponents napping.
A quick sidestep got him some space, before he collected his own grubber to round off the scoring for the hosts in another display of the attacking quality they possess.
Damian Penaud vs Scotland
It may have been a bad day at the office for Les Bleus at BT Murrayfield, but they still managed to score another beauty before slipping to a 28-17 defeat to Scotland.
With two Adam Hastings penalties putting the hosts six points to the good, Damian Penaud’s score put Les Bleus into the lead just before half-time in Edinburgh, as a fourth straight Championship victory looked to be on the cards.
It was that man Dupont who once again provided the magic to unlock the Scottish defence, as his pinpoint cross-field kick landed perfectly in the hands of the Toulon winger, who had the easiest of tasks to cross for the score.
It was another in the long list of examples of how this French team will find any way to get to the try line, whether it be through the air or on the ground.
Penaud’s score looked to be the catalyst for another dominant display from Les Bleus, only for Mohamed Haouas to see red minutes later and chances of a Grand Slam victory all but disappear.
Romain Ntamack vs Ireland
Most of the tries we’ve seen so far have been individual brilliance from the talent that France possess but when they’re all singing from the same hymn sheet they can prove to be even more destructive.
Ireland found that out the hard way in Paris in the last match of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, as the hosts kick-started the second half with one of the tries of the Championship.
After Anthony Bouthier’s composed hands under the high ball, the full-back quickly set Ntamack away down the left, who handed off to speedster Gael Fickou.
The winger’s deft chip bounced up perfectly for the onrushing Dupont who looked destined for the try line himself, only for Jacob Stockdale to get his hands to the scrum-half, and look to put him into touch.
But the quick-thinking Dupont released a brilliant looping pass to evade the Irish defenders, with Ntamack the man to profit, to score his third try of the Championship.
Virimi Vakatawa vs Ireland
France finished the 2020 Guinness Six Nations just as they started, with another highlight-reel try finished off by Virimi Vakatawa in the 35-27 victory over Andy Farrell’s Ireland side.
At this point, we hardly even need to say who provided the spark to start the move, with the effervescent Ntamack once again raking in the plaudits for this one.
The fly-half collected his own expertly measured chip over the Irish defence, before feeding the onrushing Vakatawa to run in to score unchallenged.
It was the perfect way to finish for a French side who came so close to Championship glory this year, but with an exciting squad of gifted young talent, we can be sure to see scores of such quality for many years to come.