On This Day: England claim historic Grand Slam

On this day in 1991, we saw a sensational climax to the Championship, as England claimed a dramatic 21-19 victory over France in what was a Grand Slam decider at Twickenham.

On this day in 1991, we saw a sensational climax to the Championship, as England claimed a dramatic 21-19 victory over France in what was a Grand Slam decider at Twickenham.

It was a moment of redemption for the English after suffering heartbreak the previous year, following a match famous for one of the greatest tries in the Championship’s history.   Setting the scene

This was the second year in a row where England went into their final match knowing whoever came out on top would clinch the Grand Slam, after they had been stunned 13-7 by Scotland at the final hurdle in 1990.

It had now been 11 years since England’s last clean sweep and they had set themselves up for a second chance by defeating Ireland 16-7 thanks to tries by Rory Underwood and Mike Teague.

France had been improving throughout the Championship and had scored six tries in their 36-3 win over Wales at the Parc des Princes in what was their third straight win.

England were unchanged from their victory in Dublin, with Will Carling captaining the side and winger Rory Underwood winning his 43rd cap, equalling Tony Neary’s England record.

Legendary full back Sergo Blanco was making his last Championship appearance for France, who brought in No.8 Abdel Benazzi and lock Michel Tachdjian for Christophe Deslandes and Jean-Francois Gourragne.   How the action unfolded

Simon Hodgkinson’s penalty kicked England into an early lead, but it was from his missed attempt at goal that France produced a sensational reply.

From behind his own try line, Serge Blanco decided to run the ball out and the ball went through the hands of Jean-Baptiste Lafond and Philippe Sella before Didier Camberbero raced away down the right.

The fly-half saw support was arriving and kicked the ball infield for Philippe Saint-Andre to score under the posts and complete an incredible move and move the French 6-3 ahead.

Rob Andrew then levelled the match with a drop goal before Hodgkinson and Camberabero swapped penalties.

England then took control when Hodgkinson’s pass allowed Rory Underwood to finish a sweeping move from right to left before the full back kicked another penalty to move the lead out to 18-9.

But France weren’t going to lie down in the second half and scored their second try of the afternoon when Camberabero pounced on his own kick ahead after the ball ran loose.

Hodgkinson’s fourth penalty extended England’s lead back to eight points, but France did conjure up another wonderful try through Franck Mesnel by the time the final whistle set off wild home celebrations.   What they said

England’s try scorer Rory Underwood reflected on the victory to The Guardian: “We’d lost the last match against Scotland the year before and were getting stick for our style.

“People forget that this team broke all sorts of try-scoring records.

“Losing at Murrayfield in 1990 had made us all a bit more streetwise. We went into the French game knowing we tripped up the year before, and that the Grand Slam was at stake.

“The atmosphere was fantastic. You could virtually touch the crowd, I mean they were only five yards away.”   What happened next

With the Grand Slam in the bag, England went on to reach the 1991 Rugby World Cup final after defeating France 19-10 in the quarter finals at the Parc des Princes.

They went on to lose that 12-6 to Australia at Twickenham, but they bounced back in the best possible manner by claiming their second consecutive Grand Slam in the 1992 Championship.

The result in Paris that year was more clear-cut than the previous meetings between these two rivals, with England scoring four tries in a 31-13 victory and France having Gregoire Lascube and Vincent Moscato sent off.