Following a narrow 14-13 triumph for Wales over France in the Six Nations, here’s our five takeaways from the game at the Principality Stadium.
A positive campaign for Wales: Three home wins and two narrow defeats on the road, had things gone slightly differently they may have been contesting the championship on ‘Super Saturday.’ However, that is not the only reason why Warren Gatland should be content. Even if their second half against France was not exactly free-flowing, they played with far more ambition and scored some excellent tries in the other four rounds as they moved on significantly from what was a disappointing November campaign.
Wales go back to basics against France: With the previous point in mind, it was interesting to see Wales go back to what used to serve them so well, primarily their defence and physicality. Whether it was due to the pressure France exerted or simply the amount of mistakes they were making with ball in hand, the tried and trusted methods were on show in the second half. To an extent it worked, as they prevented France from creating too many try-scoring opportunities after the break, but they had very little ball and it was a game they perhaps should have lost. Still, it should not detract from what has been a step forward for the Welsh.
Rabah Slimani is back: Well, it might be hyperbole in some respect but, after struggling in the opening four matches, the tighthead came on to the field and dominated his opposite number. Slimani has been overtaken during the year by Tadhg Furlong as Europe’s premier tighthead but this was an excellent cameo from the prop. The France scrum was penalised – perhaps harshly – on the Welsh five-metre line when they appeared to be in the ascendency but, other than that, it was an excellent shift from the Clermont man.
France begin to open up (a bit): No doubt released by their huge victory over England last weekend, Les Bleus started to be slightly more expansive against Wales. It was still nowhere near the required level and they tightened up the game when the hosts started to use the choke tackle effectively, but their try was wonderfully worked and hinted at the sort of talent they have in their ranks. Unfortunately, they are continually let down by their fly-half and Francois Trinh-Duc was, quite frankly, awful.
Final day delivers again: The Six Nations often has some turgid affairs throughout the competition but round five always seems to produce three excellent matches. Although it did not have the drama of previous editions, with the Grand Slam the only thing to be decided on the last day, they were all enthralling contests. While the Wales-France encounter descended into a bit of a slugfest after the break, it was in the balance right until the end.