Liam Pitchford won his two matches but Sam Walker and David McBeath were unable to back it up with that all-important win as France beat England 3-2 in the last 16 of the World Team Championships in Chengdu.

Pitchford was charged with getting England off to the perfect start, against 16-year-old Felix Lebrun, an awkward penholder ranked 86 in the world.

Pitchford led the first 8-7 but lost the next four points on the spin. An 11-9 win in the second, from 10-7 up, brought it level.

Lebrun was in blistering form in the third, which he took 11-2, and he continued into the fourth, forcing an English timeout when Pitchford trailed 4-1.

He lost the next point but something had clearly turned, as he won seven on the spin and nine of the next 10 to lead 10-6. Two points later, the match was level again.

There was a streak in the deciding game too, Pitchford turning it around from 5-2 down to 9-5 up and going on to win 11-7 to put the first point on the board for England.

Walker was in truth never in his first match, against the older Lebrun brother, world No 30 Alexis.

From the moment he trailed 5-0 in the first, he was up against it and although at 9-9 in the third, Walker may have sensed a chance to get back into it, Lebrun completed a 3-0 win to level the match score.

McBeath also took his time getting going against Jules Rolland (WR 141), trailing 7-0 on his way to losing the first 11-6.

But the Englishman found his range and opened up a 4-0 lead of his own in the second, going on to take it 11-9, having taken his timeout after Rolland fought back from 9-5 to 9-8 down.

Roland again moved in front, 11-6 in the third, but McBeath levelled again, this time 11-8. However, Rolland made early inroads in the decider and led 5-2 at the change of ends – and it was an advantage he never lost as he won 11-7.

Having dispatched Felix Lebrun in the opening match, it was up to Pitchford to keep England in the match by seeing off the second brother – again, it went the distance.

Pitchford saw a 7-5 lead turn into a 9-11 deficit in the first, but he came back to level 11-6. Lebrun again moved in front, though he took a timeout at 10-9 after Pitchford had saved two game points. The timeout did the trick and it was 11-9 to the French player.

Both players took a toilet break at the end of the game and whether that changed the momentum, who knows? Whatever, Pitchford came out and blazed his way to a lead of 10-4 and a win of 11-6.

Lebrun led 5-4 at the change of ends in the decider but, as he had earlier, Pitchford allied his shot-making to his experience and pulled away from 6-6 to win it 11-8.

And so back to Walker, against Felix Lebrun, who carried over a yellow card awarded for his reaction to defeat against Pitchford earlier.

If his temperament was on a knife-edge, it did not show as he sprinted out to 9-0 and won the opening game 11-4.

Walker had a chance at 9-9 in the second, and saved a game point at 10-9, but he could not engineer an opening as his young opponent took it 12-10.

There were concrete chances for Walker in the third, as he led 10-9, 11-10 and 12-11 but could not get over the line, and Lebrun won it on his first match point.

And so there was to be no repeat of the famous victory for England over France on their way to winning bronze at this event in Kuala Lumpur in 2016. France are into the quarter-finals, where they will face the winner of Thursday’s match between Croatia and Germany.


France 3 England 2
Liam Pitchford bt Felix Lebrun 3-2 (8-11, 11-9, 2-11, 11-7, 11-7)
Alexis Lebrun bt Sam Walker 3-0 (11-5, 11-4, 11-9)
Jules Rolland bt David McBeath 3-2 (11-6, 9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-7)
Pitchford bt Alexis Lebrun 3-2 (9-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-6, 11-8)
Felix Lebrun bt Walker 3-0 (11-4, 12-10, 14-12)