Wales ended an eight-game losing streak with a 16-6 victory over an uninspired French side at the Stade de France on Saturday.
Wales ended an eight-game losing streak with a hard-fought 16-6 victory over an uninspired French side at the Stade de France on Saturday.
A solitary late try from wing George North handed Wales the spoils in a dour game that culminated to the sound of boos and whistles from the Parisian crowd.
The result leaves pre-tournament favourites France rooted to the bottom on the Six Nations Championship standings after their shock loss to Italy last week.
'Crisis' might be too harsh a term to define the French situation at the moment, but all is clearly not well in Philippe Saint-AndrÃ©'s camp. Most worrying was the lack of intensity and commitment in the French defence in the last quarter, when the game was still there for the taking.
The pressure was evident in what was a must-win game for both sides, as the fear of failure seemed to dominate the attacking spirit that has served these teams so well in the past.
A first-half characterised by conservative tactics and wasted opportunities on both ends came to a close with the scores locked at 3-3 and the spectators voicing their displeasure.
Wales had enjoyed the lion's share of possession but the French came closest to crossing whitewash, only to fluff two great chances with poor decision making. The only thing worse than the quality of the spectacle was the state of the playing surface which, was once again, took a beating at every scrum.
The French half-back duo of Frederic Michalak and Maxime Machenaud came under heavy fire for their showing in Rome last week and they did their chances of being selected for next week's trip to Twichenham no good with some poor passes and options while full-back Yoann Huget failed to offload to frustrated wing Wesley Fofana on his outside with the tryline begging.
Wales started the second half well though and Leigh Halfpenny was able to give the visitors the lead with his second penalty.
The home crowd howled when Francois Trinh-Duc – playing at full-back after coming on for wing Benjamin Fall at the break – missed an easy drop goal when France were camped on the Welsh line.
Michalak drew the hosts level with a penalty (against the Welsh scrum) with half-an-hour left on the clock.
The hosts' scrum had become their primary weapon but it couldn't help them when Dan Biggar chipped over the top for North, who did brilliantly to evade the touchline and score in the corner in the 71st minute.
A long-range penalty from Halfpenny in the dying moments sealed the deal to leave France with plenty to think about.
Man of the match: Not many stand-out performers but Leigh Halfpenny was very solid, making very few errors and landing crucial kicks.
Moment of the match: There was only one. North's try was the game changer and a rare highlight.
Villain of the match: No nasty stuff, but if you're French, a guy called Philippe won't be on your Christmas card list right now.
Pens: Michalak 2
Pens: Halfpenny 3
France: 15 Yoann Huget, 14 Wesley Fofana, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Benjamin Fall, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Thierry Dusautoir, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Yannick Forestier
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Francois Trinh-Duc, 23 Florian Fritz.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ryan Jones (c), 5 Ian Evans, 4 Andrew Coombs, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Scott Williams.
Venue: Stade de France, St. Denis (Paris)
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)
By Ross Hastie