Six Nations: France 13-20 Wales

After a week off to reflect on their opening matches, Wales returned to the RBS Six Nations in style as they saw off a spirited French side in Paris on Saturday evening. Tries from Dan Biggar and the boot of Leigh Halfpenny overpowered Brice Dulin’s try for France and the shaky boot of Lopez.

Wales travelled to the Stade de France knowing that only a win would keep their hopes of a championship win alive having lost to England on the opening weekend of the tournament.

Mathieu Bastareaud was omitted from the French starting line up, but in the giant centre’s absence there was no physicality lost, with Yoann Huget welcoming Liam Williams to France with a thumping tackle.

France did struggle, however, in the midfield as Jamie Roberts battered his way through the French centres. These ventures past the gain line rewarded Wales with six points, as two Halfpenny penalties sandwiched Camille Lopez’s effort to put the scores at 6-3 to Wales, with the visitors having over 75 per cent of possession in the opening half hour.

The French threatened Wales’ try line a few times and the crowd thought that their team had crossed the line only for referee Jaco Peyper to ping them back for a forward past, much to the annoyance of the French crowd.

Warren Gatland’s men responded with some pressure of their own as George North tried to squeeze through the defensive line only to be repelled.

The sides went into half time with the score somehow still 3-6, as Lopez missed two seemingly easy kicks for the French.

France returned from half time a new side, with Lopez finally drawing them level on 48 minutes as their forwards continued to pound the Welsh defence. They looked as though they were about to take the initiative, only for Wales to stun them with a try of their own.

Rhys Webb seemed to be going nowhere at the fringes of a ruck, but a quick snipe down the outside was followed by an offload to flanker Dan Lydiate who showed the hands of a world class back as his ninja-esque offload to Dan Biggar allowed the fly-half to sprint in and score the first try of the match.

Halfpenny slipped as he kicked the conversion only for it to agonisingly clip the post and sail wide. On 64 minutes he made amends by slotting a penalty to give Wales some breathing space as the score read 17-6.

Unlike French teams of previous years, Phillipe Saint-André’s side responded well and put the Welsh defence under immense pressure, before a missed tackle from Dan Lydiate allowed French full-back Dulin to dive into the corner.

This, followed by a superb strike by the inconsistent Lopez, brought the scores to 13-17. With 8 minutes to go Halfpenny extended Wales’ lead to 13-20 and despite some pressure in the Welsh 22, Justin Tipuric dived onto a loose ball and the referee brought the game to a close to see Wales win against France for a fourth consecutive match, a feat not achieved since 1957.

Wales have another week off now to prepare for a huge game against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium, where a win will maintain their charge to regain the title. Ireland face England tomorrow in Dublin in a clash of two 100 per cent records, where an Irish victory would blow the tournament wide open.

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