England head coach Eddie Jones was left purring after his side fought to the bitter end to claim a dramatic sudden death victory over France in the Autumn Nations Cup Final.
A much-changed France side looked like they had done enough to clinch the silverware in London, with Brice Dulin crossing in the first-half, as well 14 points from the boots of Matthieu Jalibert and Louis Carbonel.
But Luke Cowan-Dickie’s last-gasp score made it 19 points apiece at the end of the 80 minutes at Twickenham, with the hosts rallying late on to score after a below-par performance for much of the game.
Owen Farrell kept his cool to kick the decisive penalty in the second period of sudden death at Rugby HQ, with the Saracens fly-half recovering from a number of missed attempts at the posts earlier in the game.
The victory capped off a terrific year for the Red Rose, who carried on from their Guinness Six Nations title earlier in the year with another trophy to add to the cabinet, leaving Jones delighted despite the slow start to the game.
“We’re so happy with our victory, we’ve won the Six Nations, and we can’t do any more than that. Our performance wasn’t as sparkling as we would like it to be,” the England head coach said.
“Owen had one of those rare days, and you don’t often see that. So we had to find other ways to score points.
“Full credit to France, they had a young team that played with no fear, they started the game well, a few things went their way and we got on the back foot.
“We just had to keep fighting, you never think you are going to lose a game, I knew the players had the right application today to do the job.”
Farrell was unable to find his range with the boot for much of the match at Twickenham, with the England skipper missing crucial penalty attempts in either half which nearly proved costly in the hunt for silverware.
Dulin’s try just before the quarter-hour mark gave the visitors the advantage in the early stages in Sunday’s affair, with Jalibert adding eight more points with the boot to stamp their authority onto the game.
The English onslaught seemed to be relentless as the seconds ticked down in the first-half, with phase after phase within a whisker of the posts, but Fabien Galthie’s side proved a tough nut to crack, and eventually forced an English error to keep the score at 13-6 at the break.
Farrell added another kick after the interval to reduce the arrears to four, but another missed attempt at goal saw more points go begging, with hopes of a victory looking to slip away.
But a dramatic late maul-try by Cowan-Dickie saw England draw level with seconds left on the clock in Twickenham, which saw a dramatic game take one more twist, as both sides went in search of a golden point.
And after missing one attempt at the posts, it didn’t look to be England’s day, until Farrell dispatched another penalty attempt in the second period to seal the victory in the most dramatic of circumstances.
It marked a momentous occasion for England, with 2000 fans allowed back into Twickenham to cheer on their team, with their impact not being missed on Jones, who backed his side to turn the game around during the break.
Jones said: “We had 2000 fans here and it was fantastic the noise they made, and we were just so please to have fans back in the ground.
“We had to collect ourselves at half-time, and I was so pleased with the players in the second-half. You could see as the game went on that we were getting stronger and stronger, and our finishers did a superb job.
“We were just two or three percent off, we thought we had a good preparation for the game, but we were just a little bit off; missing a few balls off the ground, a bit slow on a few clean outs, and we just needed to sharpen up.
“The players knew that, and their application to do that was absolutely outstanding.”