Planet Rugby

Wales keep title hopes alive

21st February 2014 21:52

Share:

Wales v France George North

Early try: George North

Wales are still alive in the 2014 Six Nations title race thanks to a 27-6 victory over France at the Millennium Stadium on Friday.

The defending champions bounced back from a heavy defeat in Dublin with a muscular display, leading from start to finish and outscoring their visitors two tries to none.

Unlike their performance a fortnight ago, the Welsh pack came to the party, dominating the contact zones and shutting down any and all French attacks.

Wales led 20-6 at the interval thanks to an opportunistic try from George North, five penalties from Leigh Halfpenny, some interesting refereeing from Alain Rolland and a few howlers from Jean-Marc Doussain.

It was a dominant opening 40 minutes from the defending champions, who hardly allowed the French into their 22.

The second-half saw just a single score but skipper Sam Warburton's try sealed the win that reignites Wales' hopes of claiming a third consecutive title.

It took just two minutes for the first points to be scored as Halfpenny found the target from almost 50 metres following a French ruck infringement.

It didn't take much longer for Wales to score the first try either. It came from a French mistake as Doussain clattered into Brice Dulin, causing the full-back to spill the ball to which he had beaten North in a race back to his line. The ball bounced free, allowing the Welsh centre to score a soft try.

Surprisingly, Halfpenny missed the conversion but he split the uprights with another long range effort soon afterwards to give the home side an 11-0 lead inside the first ten minutes.

The French scrum would earn the visitors their first points as Doussain landed a simple penalty but referee Rolland thought a slip by Nicolas Mas was worth three points in the other direction at the next set-piece so Wales led 14-3 at the end of the first quarter.

Doussain's poor form off the kicking tee continued as he missed an absolute sitter. Jules Plisson took over the kicking duties though and slotted the next one to cut the gap at 14-6.

The pattern of a Welsh reply for every French score continued though and North earned an easy three-pointer for Halfpenny with a crash ball in front of the sticks.

The home side would finish the half on a positive note as Halfpenny added his fifth penalty thanks to the Welsh scrum winning the ball back. (Despite Doussain noting Rolland's leniency for crooked feeds, he decided to roll it under Richard Hibbard's nose).

Phillipe Saint André saw the light and changed his scrum-half at the interval but France continued to leave points by the wayside as Plisson hooked a long-range effort before an offload from Mathieu Bastareaud was greeted by a knock-on within sight of the line.

The scrum-time lottery saw opposing props Gethin Jenkins and Mas hit the jackpot and win a yellow card each but it did little to abate the flow of penalties in both directions.

The nightmare for les Bleus continued as Louis Picamoles saw yellow before Warburton stretched out an arm to score after a powerful run from Jamie Roberts.

Despite their best efforts, the disjointed French attack failed to seriously threaten the outstanding Welsh defence as the home side closed shop until the final whistle.

Man of the match: Hard to pick out a single man as the entire Welsh pack deserve a pat on the back. A mention for Jamie Roberts, who was key to getting Wales going forward, and Rhys Webb, who made a lot of good decisions. But we'll go for Sam Warbuton, not only for his try and strong performance in the tackle area, but for leading a much-improved effort from the men in red.

Moment of the match: France found themselves chasing the game almost from the first whistle. George North's try set Wales on their way, and they never looked back.

Villain of the match: No nasty stuff to report.

The scorers:

For Wales:
Tries: North, Warburton
Con: Halfpenny
Pens: Halfpenny 5
Yellow card: Jenkins

For France:
Pens: Doussain, Plisson
Yellow cards: Mas, Picamoles

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 George North, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (capt), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Jake Ball, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Andrew Coombs, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 James Hook.

France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Hugo Bonneval, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Yoann Maestri 4 Pascal Papé (c), 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements:16 Brice Mach, 17 Yannick Forestier, 18 Vincent Debaty , 19 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Rémi Talès, 23 Gael Fickou.

Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Dudley Phillips (Ireland)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
International Match
Saturday , November 1
Barbarians vs Australia14:30
USA vs New Zealand20:50
More International Match fixtures
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale SharksClermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks Preview
Castres vs LeinsterCastres vs Leinster Preview
Wasps vs HarlequinsWasps vs Harlequins Preview
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92 Preview
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
LV= Cup
Saturday , November 1
Sale Sharks vs Wasps14:00
Exeter vs Gloucester15:00
Bath vs London Welsh15:00
London Irish vs Leicester15:00
Northampton vs Newcastle16:00
More LV= Cup fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 31
Leinster vs Edinburgh19:35
Ospreys vs Connacht19:35
Glasgow vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 1
Cardiff Blues vs Munster17:15
Scarlets vs Zebre18:00
Ulster vs Newport Gwent D'gons19:35
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 1
Lyon vs Toulouse14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Oyonnax18:30
La Rochelle vs Montpellier18:30
Brive vs Castres18:30
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Bayonne vs Clermont Auvergne20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Saturday , October 25
Ulster 13 - 23 ToulonUlster vs Toulon Report
Bath 19 - 21 ToulouseBath vs Toulouse Report
Montpellier 13 - 15 GlasgowMontpellier vs Glasgow Report
Northampton 34 - 6 OspreysNorthampton vs Ospreys Report
Scarlets 15 - 3 LeicesterScarlets vs Leicester Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Rovigo 18 - 33 Cardiff Blues
Bucuresti 9 - 13 Stade Francais
Exeter 33 - 13 Connacht
Oyonnax 15 - 25 Gloucester
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster 14 - 3 SaracensMunster vs Saracens Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Grenoble 15 - 25 London Irish
Edinburgh 25 - 17 LOU Rugby
Newport Gwent D'gons 26 - 30 Newcastle
Brive 21 - 26 Zebre
La Rochelle 25 - 13 Bayonne
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh 20 - 52 Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Toulon 28 - 18 ScarletsToulon vs Scarlets Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 70 - 14 RovigoLondon Irish vs Rovigo Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
International Match
Saturday , October 18
Australia 28 - 29 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More International Match results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 MunsterSale Sharks vs Munster Report
Saracens 30 - 23 Clermont AuvergneSaracens vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro 92 20 - 11 NorthamptonRacing Metro 92 vs Northampton Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615