Tue, Mar 17, 2009 - Page 20 News List

England force rare Johnson smile

AFP , LONDON

England fullback Delon Armitage carries the ball during a Six Nations match against France at Twickenham, England, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

For much of this Six Nations, England manager Martin Johnson has worn a grimace, frustrated by his side’s indiscipline and failure to make the most of their chances.

But there was no hiding his elation after a 34-10 victory over France at Twickenham Sunday.

England, who were 34-0 up early in the second-half, ran in the first of their five tries after just 67 seconds when wing Mark Cueto crowned a simple but well-worked move off the back of a ruck.

Johnson, who famously gave little away when captaining England to their 2003 World Cup triumph, reacted with raw delight and his mood was enhanced as center Riki Flutey (twice), full-back Delon Armitage and Joe Worsley also ran in tries.

England, making the most of France turnovers, showed the kind of cutting edge so badly lacking in their successive defeats by Wales and Ireland.

They did that without adding to a costly tally of 10 yellow cards in their previous four matches.

This was only England’s third win in eight matches under Johnson.

But both the Wales and Ireland defeats had been away. To have lost at Twickenham as well would really have put the performance of Johnson and his backroom staff under the microscope.

Such was England’s initial dominance — all their points came in the first 42 minutes — that even much-criticized captain and second row Steve Borthwick was able to enjoy himself at the lineout.

“The guys have confidence in what we are doing and to turn them into clinical tries was great,” Johnson said.

England, who scored all their points in the first 42 minutes, knew going into the game they had no chance at the championship.

Flanker Tom Croft, one of three changes Johnson made to his starting side for this match, was named man-of-the-match.

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