So the best was kept until the end after all. In the Brexit week unfolding there, we probably should have guessed that the England-France Fall Nations Cup final would take place in overtime.
Shortly after that match, a message appeared on the phone from France with a photo of Irish referee Andrew Brace above the caption: Man of the match alongside a sad face emoji.
Immediately and moving after the match, one of France’s assistant coaches, Cameron Woki, told France 2: “The match was mainly played on the referee’s decisions, it’s embarrassing. “
Shortly after, French head coach Fabien Galthié regretted that the game had been decided in small details, adding: “Especially the referee’s decisions, that’s what embarrasses. “
Much of their anger came from three key moments in the 79th minute, with France leading 19-12 and on the verge of an unlikely first win over England at Twickenham since 2007. First, as he admitted by the Following, Billy Vunipola passed the ball forward. ground. A few phases later, Owen Farrell also lost the ball forward to the ground before recovering it illegally with French debutant number 8 Selevasio Tolofua in the jackal.
But instead of awarding France a penalty, Brace penalized French substitute Pierre-Louis Barassi for later being offside, which he was. In Brace’s mitigation, both Vunipola’s knock-on, and in particular that of Farrell’s double indiscretion, were in full view of assistant referee Craig Evans, not to mention TMO Ben Whitehouse.
To make matters worse, at the start of the second period, Brace incorrectly ruled that backrower substitute Sekou Macalou, on his third test, threw the ball forward as the ball was pulled back to Tom Curry.
France had chased England within five yards of their own line, with Gabin Villière battling for a penalty on the ground. But instead, Brace brought the game back for an England scrum inside their ten-yard line, which, two penalties later, led to Farrell hitting the “gold points.”
The English celebrations were a testament to how such an inexperienced French team had pushed them for almost 100 minutes. The biggest advantage of the Fall Nations Cup has been that France, without a doubt, appears to be the best bet of the eight nations competing to win the 2023 World Cup – the draw of which will take place next Monday – home.
Galthié was missing 25 players on Sunday due to the agreement between the French Federation and the National Rugby League. Most of the aforementioned players would not have been known outside France. Their starter pack averaged exactly two caps per man. Louis Carbonel, the 21-year-old substitute on his second try, picked up his two penalties. He would be about fourth or fifth pick of about half a dozen half-votes (compare and contrast with Ireland).
That they were able to put together such an organized, spirited and defensive-resistant performance under the command of Shaun Edwards also reaffirmed that, finally, Les Bleus may have their best coaching ticket in the professional era.
There were other things to take away from the tournament, including Fiji’s 38-24 victory over Georgia, although this only reaffirmed what the tournament had missed due to their opening three games being canceled.
Likewise, the Covid-19 outbreak in the Fijian camp also demonstrated how much all parties involved deserve to be commended for compiling and completing this hastily organized international tournament.
Rookie rear rower Mesulame Kunavula scored a try on his home ground in Edinburgh two weeks after his mother died, and he was unable to return home for the funeral. Nemani Nadolo marked his return to the testing arena two years after his retirement from international rugby by scoring a hat-trick and couldn’t contain his emotions as he revealed how much it meant to him afterwards.
Georgia continued until the very end of their fourth game and will certainly have benefited tremendously from their experiences over the past month. Even Wales could get some bright spots from their 38-18 win over Italy, including the return to form of Taulupe Faletau and the continued shine of Justin Tipuric.
We are living in negative times. People are fed up and craving 2020, which is understandable. While nothing would have satisfied some observers last Saturday in an empty Aviva and Ireland’s previous performances drew much criticism, especially from former players, they move on to an imposing victory over Scotland and a positive base in the Six Nations.
Granted, only Caelan Doris and Hugo Keenan broke into the squad and became regular starters, and the squad remains dependent on Johnny Sexton. Still, Andrew Porter came of age and for all his criticism Jacob Stockdale offered another offensive dimension to the back. He needs a few more games there now at Ulster.
Yes, he doesn’t offer the same sense of positional and aerial safety in the back as Rob Kearney, but Stockdale has shown skills in counterattacking, transporting, kicking and distribution. Each team has its own identity. This one is looking for theirs and maybe Stockdale could still be the right fit.
As for Porter, coaches have considered bringing him back to freehead in light of Eric O’Sullivan’s cameo in his debut, and with David Kilocyne returning, that side of the fray actually looks better stocked now. than the head of the head.
But above all, no less than the Premier League pitches in recent days and nights, what the other three games of the last Fall Nations Cup weekend have also highlighted is the impact that even a few hundred or a few thousand fans may have the games. True, alive, breathing, screaming, singing, clapping fans – not booing them. Even through the television screen, the effect was palpable, not only on the home team but on the competitions themselves.
Regardless of the number, health and safety guidelines of course allow, they cannot return too early to the Aviva Stadium or other Irish pitches.