Wales 23-27 France: Romain Ntamack impresses as France keep Six Nations Grand Slam dream alive with blockbuster victory in Cardiff
- France have kept their Six Nations Grand Slam dream alive with a win over Wales
- France took an early lead with tries from Anthony Bouthier and Paul Willemse
- Dan Biggar kicked over three first half penalties to keep Wales in the match
- Dillon Lewis scored his first international try in the 47th minute for Wales
- Romain Ntamack intercepted the ball moments later and scored a solo try
- Dan Biggar scored a clutch try in the final ten minutes to keep match on an edge
And so the fortress has fallen.
After 10 years of being out-gunned in Cardiff, the French revolution is well and truly alive as Les Blues stormed a previously insurmountable castle with an epic win to end their dodgy decade.
It all came in glorious tricolour. A first win in Wales since 2010 has the French dreaming of a first Grand Slam since then too.
France pulled off a huge victory against Wales in Cardiff to keep their Six Nations dream alive
Romain Ntamack impressed with 17 points as France’s Grand Slam ambitions continue
Forget fraternité, the French channelled Shaun Edwards-inspired brutalité in defence here.
And thanks to 17 points from Romain Ntamack, and other tries from Anthony Bouthier and Paul Willemse they inflicted Wales’ first home defeat in the Six Nations for three years.
Wales scored only via Dillon Lewis and late-on from Dan Biggar, who kicked the rest of their points, but they rued profligacy.
Full-back Anthony Bouthier crossed the line after a fortunate bounce for France’s first try
Forward Paul Willemse powered over the line for the visitors second try as Wales struggled
Wales fly-half kept the Welsh in the match with penalties throughout the first half
The champions are now out of contention, the Wayne Pivac era down to earth with a double-bump.
Not since 2017 have they lost back-to-back in this Championship.
The atmosphere snapped, crackled and popped under the roof – you felt as if you had been transported to Stade de France with a lid on.
The thousands of beret-wearing, baguette-waving Frenchman had a riot. ‘Allez Les Blues’ rumbled around the ground and the Welsh were left silenced by a deafening din.
The soundtrack of the stands backed up the action. Fiesty, fiery and fervent; this is was an overdue introduction to the Six Nations.
Welcome back the ‘greatest’ Championship, which has been anything but memorable so far.
Centre Nick Tompkins was an impressive performer for the hosts with his line breaks
The match was played at a very high intensity and it almost boiled over at the Prinicpality
Prop Dillon Lewis scored his first international try for Wales early in the second half
And it was all thanks to the French that this occasion ripped with colour and excitement. It is quite remarkable how much of an effect one man can have on a team.
Shaun Edwards – so celebrated in this parish – was in the other box and his French defence were ravenous just like the Welsh were before.
They biffed rucks that might have looked lost, whizzed up to whack the Welsh and brought a thumping tempo.
Biggar hit an early penalty when the French were too eager and strayed offside, but then on came Les Bleus.
Ntamack launched up a high bomb, Leigh Halfpenny failed to diffuse it and the thing blew up in Welsh faces as Bouthier streaked away to score having gathered the loose ball. Ntamack converted.
Romain Ntamack then intercepted the ball, ran the pitch and scored for France
Wales tried a similar trick – cross-kicking from Biggar to George North on the right wing – but in trying to catch it he hit Gael Fickou’s shoulder with his head and soon looked groggy.
Wales: Halfpenny, North, Adams, Tompkins, Parkes, Biggar, G.Davies; W.Jones, Owens, Lewis, A.W Jones, Ball, Moriarty, Tipuric, Faletau.
Subs: Elias, Evans, Brown, Rowlands, Wainwright, T.Williams, Evans, McNicholl.
Tries: Lewis, Biggar.
Pens: Biggar (3).
France: Bouthier, Thomas, Fickou, Vakatawa, Vincent, Ntamack, Dupont; Baille, Marchand, Haouas, Le Roux, Willemse, Cros, Ollivon, Alldritt.
Subs: Chat, Gros, Bamba, Taofifenua, Cretin, Serin, Jailbert, Ramos.
Tries: Bouthier, Willemse, Ntamack.
Cons: Ntamack (3).
Pens: Ntamack (2).
North would not be seen again, replaced by Johnny McNicholl, having failed his HIA. Ntamack and Biggar swapped penalties before the French came flooding on again.
Fickou thought he might have scored first. Bouthier snaked past Nick Tompkins – his defence exposed again in the centres – and soon Virimi Vakatawa had sent Teddy Thomas away. Back the ball came to Ntamack with a bobble and his smacked a kick wide to Fickou who stepped in to score.
But the Vakatawa pass in the build-up had been forward, so it was ruled out. No matter; next France pinned Hadleigh Parkes into the left corner, won the lineout and sent Paul Willemse – all Afrikaans beef – straight through McNicholl for a try that did count.
That got them going. At one point in the Gallic roar Hymns and Arias had to be piped in so the Welsh remembered to sing at home. They and their team were way behind in every sense.
But Wales must have the longest fingernails in the sport – such is their propensity to cling to games.
Biggar hit a penalty to take Wales to within eight, and then they sought a score. In the siege before the break Gregory Alldritt was sin-binned for coming in at the side, and France gave away at least three more penalties.
Wales opted for the scrum in each occasion but their execution was shoddy; the French defence fantastic. Four full minutes after the 40 was up Tompkins knocked on and Edwards’ eager men had held on. It felt a crucial period.
Wales fought hard into the final quarter of the match as France picked up a second yellow card
In the recent other games between these two Wales have had to crawl back from the dead – 16-0 down in Paris last year and 12-0 behind in Oita’s World Cup quarter-final.
A hallmark of Warren Gatland’s Wales was them winning games they had no right to; so this was a true test of Pivac’s embryonic era.
Having picked the most experienced team ever fielded in the Six Nations, with 859 caps, the New Zealander had hoped those wise heads would see Wales through.
It was a youngster who took them to within one. Tight-head Dillon Lewis, 24, piled over by the posts and Biggar converted nine minutes after half-time.
Now you heard them, Land of My Fathers rang around. This is usually when they French lose their heads – but not today. Ntamack intercepted Tompkins and ran in – his conversion saw France back to eight ahead.
Dan Biggar score a try in the final minutes to spice up the final minutes in Cardiff
And with 20 minutes left it was Wales who looked bereft, they were piling mistakes on top of each other and whingeing to referee Matthew Carley.
Ntamack kicked another penalty from 48 metres and this now looked like the tallest of orders for Wales.
They tried their damnedest. Mohamed Haouas was yellow-carded as the French scrum crumbled under immense pressure. But with Demba Bamba on for the next one he melted Rob Evans like a Welsh rarebit and won the penalty.
When Biggar scored and converted late on France might have sensed deja-vu but after a period of panic – and full-time fight – they soon danced and sang, and why not?
Days like this have been a long time coming. Vive La Revolution!
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