LONDON (REUTERS) - Ireland won the Six Nations Championship on points difference from England and Wales following an extraordinary final day on Saturday.
Wales routed Italy 61-20 before Ireland beat Scotland 40-10 and England overcame France 55-35, leaving Ireland as champions with a better points difference by six over England.
Wales finished third with France fourth, Italy fifth and Scotland in last place.
England won an extraordinary battle but agonisingly lost the war in a 12-try Six Nations finale on Saturday, falling short of the 26-point victory they needed to deny Ireland a second successive title.
England’s hopes of a first Six Nations title since 2011 were rocked in a five-minute spell in the first half when France scored two tries by Sebastien Tillous-Bord and Noa Nakaitaci to turn a 7-3 deficit into a 15-7 lead after Ben Youngs had crossed for a try after two minutes.
England hit back with a try for Anthony Watson and a second for Youngs to lead 27-15 at halftime and the tries continued to flow after the restart as Maxime Mermoz and George Ford each crossed under the posts.
Jack Nowell and Billy Vunipola scored for England, with Vincent Debate and Benjamin Kaiser replying before Nowell’s second took England within a converted try of the title five minutes from time.
The game reached a deafening crescendo as England pounded the line seeking a margin of victory they had managed only once in a century of championship play but France held out.
That left England second in the standings for the fourth year in a row and France fourth, in the bottom half of the table for the fourth successive season.