ENGLAND Youth fell to a 34-26 defeat against France in the first Test at Stobart Stadium, Widnes on Friday.
In a closely contested game from start to finish, it was France who left victorious thanks largely to a spell of domination in the second half which saw them score three tries in 15 minutes to overturn a 14-12 half-time deficit.
Nerves were evident from both sides in the early stages of the game and it was France who seemed to have settled into the occasion first when they opened the scoring trough prop Dorian Denat.
But a French knock-on from the following kick-off gave England promising field position and they wasted no time in responding through winger Isaac Noi.
Just two minutes later England added to their tally when Morgan Smith’s perfectly timed short ball put a stampeding Jake Moore through a gap to power his way over the French line before scrum-half Houghton added the extras to make it 10-6.
That lead was extended further when Brad Parker managed to force his way over from dummy-half. Houghton failed with the extras to keep the score at 14-6.
Winger Max Jowitt looked to have added his name to the score sheet when he dived for the line only to touch the ball down inches short of the whitewash as half-time approached.
French interchange Carly Bey pulled the scores back to 14-10 when he forced his way over from close range before Albert landed his second conversion to make it 14-12 as the half-time whistle blew.
England began the second half in promising fashion and it took just three minutes for the home side to get back on the scoreboard.
Sam Hallas showed strength and speed to break the first line of defence and from inside his own half and Hallas was on hand to finish the move underneath the posts moments later.
Houghton added the extras to make it 20-12.
However it was France who dominated from then on and three tries in 15 minutes put them in a commanding position going into the final 10 minutes.
First scrum-half Marvin Merbah put centre Yaha over in the corner before a bruising run by French loose forward and man of the match Mohamed Zentri allowed Jonathan Has to exploit a gap in the retreating defence to score from short range to put the visiting team ahead by 22-20
That lead was further extended when prop Nicolas Pomie barged over underneath the posts with Albert making it 28-20.
England captain Liam Johnson looked to have reduced the gap only for the referee to disallow his try but hope of a late comeback was raised when Jake Moore scored his second of the day after he ran another superb line to give the defence no chance of stopping him from five meters out.
But it was France who had the final say when hooker Yoan Veve crossed over on the final whistle to make it 34-26.
Tries: Noi, Moore 2, Parker, Hallas
Goals: Houghton 3
Tries: Denat, Bey, Yaha, Has, Pomie, Veve
Goals: Albert 5
1. Ash Golding; 2. Issac Noi, 3. Kameron Pearce Paul, 4. Harvey Livett, 5. Max Jowitt; 6. Morgan Smith, 7. Ryan Houghton; 8. Daniel Douglas, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Frazer Morris, 11. Jake Moore, 12. Liam Cooper, 13. Liam Johnson.
Subs: 14. Brad Parker, 15. Jake Campbell, 16. Sam Hallas, 17. Jack Rush.
1. Etienne Ferret; 2. Yoann Rahirez, 3. Vincent Albert, 4. Fouad Yaha, 5. Dorian Munoz; 6. Evan Albert, 7. Marvin Merbah; 8. Dorian Denat, 9. Yoan Veve, 10. Nicolas Pomie, 11. Olivier Ruiz, 12. Mickail Goudemand, 13. Mohamed Zentri.
Subs: 14. Charly Bey, 15. Georges Mingaud, 16. Sebastien Nietche, 17. Jonathan Has.