France against England in Paris is a fixture to get the pulse racing no matter what the circumstances and the 2004 clash had plenty riding on it.
England, reigning world champions and winners of a Grand Slam the previous year, needed to win by eight points to seal a second Championship on the bounce. Hosts France, meanwhile, were looking for a victory to secure their second Grand Slam in the space of three years.
In Imanol Harinordoquy, the home side had a back-rower with a try-scoring instinct that was particularly prominent in the 2004 Championship.
The No.8, who had made his France debut in their Grand Slam-winning campaign two years previously, went over twice against Italy in a 25-0 win before dotting down again the following week as France beat Wales 29-22 in Cardiff.
A convincing 31-0 win in Edinburgh made it four wins from four and set up a classic encounter in the French capital.
Harinordoquy was up against England captain Lawrence Dallaglio – no quarter would be given on either side.
While France had swept all before them leading into this final weekend battle, England’s hopes of a second straight Grand Slam were ended in Round 3 as Ireland won 19-13 at Twickenham.
But a healthy points difference, boosted by big wins over Italy (50-9) and Scotland (35-13), meant Sir Clive Woodward’s men were still in with a shout of winning the Championship when they landed in the French capital.
For France, the equation was simple. The Championship and Grand Slam would be theirs with victory – the crown would still be theirs if they could keep any defeat to eight points or fewer.
The hosts, roared on by the majority of the 79,906 inside the Stade de France, started the game on top and went ahead when Dimitri Yachvili slotted a 22nd-minute penalty.
The scrum-half’s next intervention with the boot would prove even more decisive.
Just four minutes after breaking the deadlock, Yachvili received the ball inside the England 22.
With the visiting defence having been drawn over to the left-hand side, the French scrum-half spotted space on the right flank – where Harinordoquy was waiting.
The crossfield kick needed to be just right and Yachvili judged it to perfection. When the bounce sat up perfectly for Harinordoquy, the No.8 stayed in play and touched down for his fourth try of the Championship before the covering English defence had a chance to disrupt his momentum.
France were firmly in the ascendancy for the remainder of the half and a stunning solo try by Yachvili, who gathered his own kick and dived over in the closing stages of a first half which ended with France 21-3 ahead.
A Yachvili penalty shortly after the restart stretched the lead and left England needing a miracle, though their hopes were raised when Ben Cohen went over with 27 minutes still to play.
The visitors did go over again, through Josh Lewsey, but it came too late to seriously threaten France’s grip on the Championship and the final whistle arrived soon afterwards, France winning 24-21 to complete the Grand Slam.
It was a case of revenge for France, who had been beaten by England in the World Cup semi-final the previous year, and for Harinordoquy, who was not at his dynamic best on that occasion.
His try was crucial in setting his side on the road to redemption and coach Bernard Laporte said afterwards: “I am very happy because we wanted to win against the best team in the world.
“We played well in the first half although in the second period we were not so good.
“We were very good in defence, in the scrum and in the line-out but England are still the best team in the world.
“England were the better side in the World Cup semi-final and we congratulated them but in this match, we were the best.”
France won further Championships in 2006 and 2007, Harindordoquy playing all five games in the latter, and he was an ever-present once more in the 2010 Grand Slam triumph.
He scored nine Guinness Six Nations tries in all over the course of 39 Championship appearances – but perhaps none felt sweeter than the one which finished off that lovely team move in 2004.