Leicester Tigers duo Jordan Olowofela and Joe Heyes claimed the touchdowns as England outscored France three tries to two but had to settle for runners-up medals in a 33-25 defeat in the World Rugby Under-20s Championship Final on Sunday.
England were chasing a fourth Under-20s title but got on the wrong side of the penalty count as France fly-half Louis Carbonel kicked 23 points to go with his side’s two tries in Beziers.
After France had opened up an early lead, Olowofela provided a vital score for England just before half-time to get them back in the game at 8-14 and he was on the mark again in the closing moments of the game after replacement Heyes had also grabbed a second-half score.
Olowofela joined Tigers colleagues Ben White and Tom Hardwick in the starting backline, while prop Heyes was used as a replacement in the second half in England’s sixth successive appearance in the final.
Tigers also had input on the coaching team with Anthony Allen and Richard Blaze.
France led with a couple of early penalties while England had to wait until the 21st minute to get off the mark as Marcus Smith landed his first kick at goal.
And the hosts, with a big and noisy Beziers crowd behind them, made their breakthrough on 26 minutes, using the set-piece as a platform for flanker Cameron Woki to force his way over the line and stretch the lead to 11-3.
But England weathered the storm and created space for their own try on the stroke of half-time after some good pressure in possession from the forwards.
After more than 20 phases in the tight, play opened up to the right and Hardwick passed for Olowofela to score in the corner.
The score was confirmed after a check with the TMO on the angle of the pass, but Smith was off target with the conversion attempt in the last action of the half with England 8-14 behind.
Carbonel, crucially, added another penalty just two minutes into the second period to push the lead back out to nine points.
Heyes joined the England front row in the 47th minute but a scrum penalty gave Carbonel another sight of goal and, with the sun dipping behind the stands in the south of France, he made it 20-8.
England were pulled up for getting in front of the kicker at the restart and France immediately went for a scrum, which brought yet another penalty and Carbonel did his job again.
Smith landed a 35-metre kick to make it 11-23 entering the final 15 minutes but Carbonel took the opportunity to reply just moment later.
Heyes then provided a lifeline in the final 10 minutes, forcing his way through the attentions of three defenders on the tryline to dot down. James Grayson added the conversion to cut the deficit to just eight points.
But France provided an instant response when Carbonel’s kick in behind the defence was dotted down by replacement Seguret. Fly-half Carbonel added the conversion to take his total to 23 points for the match.
There was still time for England to threaten the line again and for Olowofela to claim his second try of the final – and fifth of the championship – as he put the finishing touches to some concerted pressure. Grayson added the conversion, but Les Bleus were still eight points in front as they claimed the crown.
Earlier, Wales beat Italy 34-17 to finish in seventh place in the championship. Tigers flanker Tommy Reffell who had played every minute of the four previous games as Wales captain, was used as a second-half replacement.
Club colleague Sam Grahamslaw was a 47th-minute replacement in the Scotland front row as they were beaten 31-39 by Georgia on the final day of the championships.