Planet Rugby

Wales clinch Grand Slam

17th March 2012 12:17

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Alex Cuthbert Wales celebrating scoring a try against France 2012 Six Nations

En-route to the tryline: Alex Cuthbert

Wales beat France 16-9 in a tight battle at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday to complete the Grand Slam in fine style.

Wing Alex Cuthbert scored the only try of an enthralling battle to help the home side to their third Slam in eight years.

The occasion had an extra poignancy for Welsh rugby following the death of 1976 Grand Slam skipper Mervyn Davies on Thursday a few will deny they deserved victory in Cardiff over a combative but unimaginative French team.

Cuthbert's try helped Wales to a 10-3 lead at half time while Leigh Halfpenny added the conversion and three penalties over the course of the 80 minutes.

All of France's points came from the boot of half-backs Lionel Beauxis and Dimitri Yachvili. Indeed French fans will be left frustrated by the lack of positive intent or creativity from their side.

But the day was about Wales and their ability to hold their nerve under pressure. And there was no lack of it as les Bleus came desperately close to forcing their way over in the closing minutes.

While the Welsh attack has been a talking point over the last six week, it was their defence that impressed most with Jonathan Davies and Dan Lydiate leading the charge.

Referee Craig Joubert was taking a strict approach to the breakdown area and ruck infringements gave Yachvili and Rhys Priestland each an early opportunity to kick at goal.

The French scrum-half opened the scoring but Priestland's reply found the post.

Wales were soon in front however when Cuthbert scored a fabulous try from quick turnover ball, showing a neat step in between Julien Bonnaire and William Servat before tearing towards the unguarded tryline. Halfpenny took over the kicking duties and had no problems with the conversion.

A powerful Welsh scrum was at the origin of further points seven minutes before the break as it gave Davies a head start to put pressure on Beauxis, who spilt his pass in contact and the home side were awarded a penalty when Alexis Palisson was forced to hang on while cleaning up.

Halfpenny should have added another three points on the stroke of half-time but this time it was his turn to strike the woodwork.

Sam Warburton did not return to the field after the break and the French held the momentum early in the second period.

Beauxis narrowed the gap to four points from the kicking tee but squandered an easy chance to get les Bleus within a point when he missed his fourth drop goal attempt of the tournament.

Halfpenny thumped over a penalty from 52 metres out to restore Wales' advantage as France persisted with their kick-orientated game, though replacement Jean-Marcellin Buttin came close to scoring when collecting a cross-field kick from Beauxis.

The visitors piled on the pressure in the closing stages and Imanol Harinordoquy will rue his decision to cut inside when he had Louis Picamoles on his outside and the tryline within range.

Joubert gave the visitors a penalty and their negative attitude was summed up in the decision to take three rather than seek a try to level the game.

The final minutes were inevitably fraught from a Welsh perspective, but Halfpenny held his nerve to add one last penalty and kick off a massive party.

Man of the match: Wales flank Dan Lydiate put in yet another immense tackling display and must be considered a candidate for Player of the Tournament.

Moment of the match: There was nothing to choose between the teams in the opening stages before Alex Cuthbert's try put Wales ahead. From then on France were chasing the game and Wales always seemed in control.

Villain of the match: No bad guys here. Let the party commence!

The scorers:

For Wales
Try: Cuthbert
Con: Halfpenny
Pens: Halfpenny 3

For France:
Pens: Yachvili 2, Beauxis

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Luke Charteris, 19 Ryan Jones, 20 Lloyd Williams, 21 James Hook, 22 Scott Williams

France: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Wesley Fofana, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Yohann Maestri, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 David Attoub, 2 William Servat, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Louis Picamoles, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 François Trinh-Duc, 22 Jean-Marcellin Buttin

Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Stuart Terheege (England)
Television match official: Iain Ramage (Scotland)

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