France deny Wales Grand Slam with last-gasp Brice Dulin try in pulsating match
What a sensational way for Wales to lose a Grand Slam, so good throughout this Six Nations and again here in Paris, only for France to set the script on fire with a comeback for the ages despite a late red card to their lock Paul Willemse. Brice Dulin’s try in the corner with time up on the clock and Wales down to 13 men after two yellow cards of their own broke Welsh hearts and kept France’s hopes of a title for the first time since 2010 very much alive. An extraordinary finish to comfortably the best game of this Six Nations.
“It’s happiness without joy, without limits,” said the winning coach Fabien Galthie, with his captain Charles Ollivon adding: “We went for it. Nothing was given for free tonight. We gave it our all.”
Wales, so physical and slick and consistently accurate, were better than this absurdly talented French side in almost every area until the final 10 minutes, leading through tries from Dan Biggar, Josh Navidi and Josh Adams. They must have thought they were home and dry after Willemse’s red card for a neck roll and making contact to the eye of Wyn Jones. But that let France off the leash, Charles Ollivon’s try giving Wales a paper-thin three-point buffer.
As the incredible finish proved, it wasn’t enough. “The final play France obviously edged it. They built the pressure in those last minutes and credit to France for getting the win,” said Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones.
“There’s quite a bit of pride, particularly in the period of time we’re in. We can be pleased with that. But there’s no consolation in pride.
It’s something you feel, but we came here to win today.
Dulin scores the winning try at the end of a fantastic match in Paris Credit:REUTERS
Questioned whether Wales should have been awarded a penalty try at one point in the second half, Jones added: “We’ve benefited from decisions, so it would be uncouth if I should from the rooftops about decisions that could have gone our way.” With so much on the line for Wales this fixture threatened to be cagey. The whole contest was the opposite of that, truly primetime viewing on a Saturday night.
How France would react to that loss at Twickenham felt like the most pressing question for the hosts and the immediate answer was promising, Antoine Dupont’s hot-stepping footwork on display once more with the scrum-half tackled high by Josh Adams. Dulin’s penalty to the corner was near perfect, and while France were stopped once held up over the line, a slick lineout move followed, Gregory Alldritt stopped short before Romain Taofifenua powered over. Next it was Wales’ turn to be held up, thanks to a bit of excellent defence from the French captain Charles Ollivon stopped Wales from drawing level.
Even Ollivon though wasn’t stopping a hurtling Biggar, running a crash-ball line at speed his former team-mate Jamie Roberts would have been proud of, with Gareth Davies’ whipped pass hitting Biggar in stride from a metre out to finish, Biggar converting to level the scores. France hit back with a bit of absolute magic, Dulin’s delicate chip bouncing up perfectly for Matthieu Jalibert, given the easy task of putting Dupont away for France’s second try. Those support lines from Dupont are no accident – he is seemingly always there.
Wales, unbowed, cracked France open from short-range again, Josh Navidi this time the scorer, the flanker who was so missed last year when Wales were in their slump. This was a good time for Jonathan Davies to produce his best rugby of the tournament, carving through on one carry prior to Wales going ahead for the first time through a Biggar penalty. Even without the ballast of lock Taofifenua, off with an early injury, France’s scrum looked fierce, a penalty at that set-piece setting them up in Wales’ half.
Romain Ntamack, on for the concussed Jalibert, slotted a penalty shortly afterwards to level the game at 17-17, leaving both sides deadlocked but only after an excellent opening 40 minutes, with Wales practically ripping their way through France’s defence at will.
Perhaps a half-time rocket from defence coach Shaun Edwards would help France to settle, because even with the score level they needed it. Wales were winning the collisions and the aerial contest and when they did get a chance to attack, their carrying was consistently physical and accurate, earning another three points to open the second half through Biggar after a barrage of runs from their forwards. A simply majestic grubber kick from Justin Tipuric then paved the way for Adams to score, but that decision was only made after the longest of reviews.
Dulin and Julian Marchand did everything they could to hold Adams up, but referee Luke Pearce ruled the ball had been grounded, with television match official Wayne Barnes not seeing enough evidence to overturn the call. Wales at this point were in cruise control, the base of the post denying Rees-Zammit the most spectacular of tries with his dive for the corner, Wales instead settling for three more points from Biggar’s boot with France prop Mohamed Haouas yellow carded. Wayne Barnes as the TMO certainly earned his supper, called on again to rule that Marchand was held up over the line after a burst from a maul.
Despite Wales producing an outstanding defensive stand France looked to have closed the gap through a Dulin try, but Willemse’s dangerous clearout and subsequent red card was disastrous for France, and a huge boost for Wales. But now Wales were in trouble with referee Pearce, Taulupe Faletau and Liam Williams both yellow carded within one minute to reduce Wales to 13. Ollivon crashed over; hope for France but with the clock against them with the score at 27-30.
France had a final chance, a maul in the Wales half setting them up. Remarkably, they took it. Up popped Dulin, denied a try earlier, to finish in the corner.
Gael Fickou deserves Disaster for Wales. Truly astonishing from this French side who are a joy to watch.
Scoring sequence: 5-0 Taofifenua try, 7-0 Jalibert con, 7-5 Biggar try, 7-7 BIggar con, 12-7 Dupont try, 14-7 Jalibert con, 14-12 Navidi try, 14-14 Biggar con, 14-17 Biggar pen, 17-17 Ntamack pen, 17-20 Biggar pen, 17-25 Adams try, 17-27 Biggar con, 20-27 Ntamack pen, 20-30 Biggar pen, 25-30 Ollivon try, 27-30 Ntamack con, 32-30 Dulin try France: B Dulin; T Thomas (rep A Vincent 56), V Vakatawa, G Fickou, D Penaud; M Jalibert (rep R Ntamack 29), A Dupont (rep B Serin 73); C Baille (rep J Gros 58), J Marchand (rep C Chat 68), M Haouas (rep U Atonio 68), R Taofifenua (rep S Rebbadj 21), P Willemse, D Cretin (rep A Jelonch 50), C Ollivon, G Alldritt.
Wales: L Williams; L Rees-Zammit, G North, J Davies (rep W Halaholo 67), J Adams; D Biggar (rep C Sheedy 67), G Davies (rep T Williams 48); W Jones, K Owens (rep E Dee 67), T Francis (rep L Brown 67), A Beard (rep C Hill 56), A Jones, J Navidi, J Tipuric, T Faletau.
Referee: L Pearce.
FULL-TIME: France 32-30 Wales
Heartbreak for Wales, no Grand Slam – denied with the last passage of play. Awesome match – great entertainment, not that Wales will care about that.
TRY FOR FRANCE!!!
From the lineout France set up a driving maul – then they ship it down the line – it’s now or never for the hosts. Good defence by Wales, France keep on probing, Penaud has it and sends it back inside.
Patient stuff from France and it pays off as Dulin goes over on the left – what a finish to a great match! Ntamack misses the extras and it’s 32-30 to France!
79 mins: France 27-30 Wales
Penalty to France! Ntamack kicks for touch – the hosts have lineout outside the 22 – that was a poor kick.
78 mins: France 27-30 Wales
It’s all France at the moment – can Wales hold on?
The hosts are keeping the ball alive well BUT THERE’S A KNOCK ON and Wales have vital possession.
77 mins: France 27-30 Wales
It’s going down to the wire!
TRY FOR FRANCE!
More great defence by Wales – especially from Navidi. But then Ollivon goes over. Ntamack slots homs the extras.
It’s 30-27 to Wales with three minutes left
75 mins: France 20-30 Wales
From the scrum France win a penalty. And decide for another scrum – this will eat into the clock so Wales won’t mind that too much.
74 mins: France 20-30 Wales
France are again close to the try line – Wales are offside once again – and Pearce has a word with both captains, he tells AWJ he will happily send another Welshman to the bin if they keep encroaching.
73 mins: France 20-30 Wales
France kick for touch, From the resulting lineout, they try to crash over from close range BUT lose the ball and Sheedy, on for Biggar kicks deep. Wales are living dangerously at the moment.
Liam Williams is now shown a yellow for killing the ball – France now have a man advantage for the rest of the match.
72 mins: France 20-30 Wales
Lovely play by the French who show quick hands before Ollivon crashes over the line. He’s held up but it comes back for an offside and Faletau is shown a yellow so for the last 10 minutes it will be 14 against 14.
70 mins: France 20-30 Wales
France have to give it everything now – 10 minutes left but if any side can come back from 10 points with a man down then it’s France.
69 mins: France 20-30 Wales
Lineout for France. It’s thrown long and Wales have it – big mistake by France.
68 mins: France 20-30 Wales
So from a try and a kick for a 27-30 deficit France are now permanently down to 14 and the scoreline stays at 30-20 to Wales.
BIG PASSAGE OF PLAY that…
67 mins: France 20-30 Wales
From that attacking scrum the hosts pop the ball up for the big Vakatawa to run on to. It’s more fine defence from Wales. There’s an offside and France go for another scrum.
They try the same again, Vakatawa this time tackled by replacement scrum half Williams. They are getting closer, it’s unrelenting pressure. They fling the ball left – and finally they cross the line – Dulin making the pressure tell.
They kept their composure and shape and were well worth the five points. BUT IT”S DISALLOWED for foul play in the build up. A-W Jones is the victim of a neck grab from Willemse. The replay also shows he’s made contact with the eye area – it was possibly unintentional but it’s a RED CARD. It’s a stupid thing to do and the France lock is off.
63 mins: France 20-30 Wales
Wales are penalised for a deliberate knock on.
Ntamack kicks for touch. From the lineout they crash through the midfield – they have a penalty advantage, they are trying to crash over from close range. It comes back for the penalty (for offside). Ntamack again kicks for touch.
The lineout from five yards sets up a driving maul – Marchand goes over but it looks like he’s held up – that’s the on-field decision and it’s a five-metre scrum. Great Wales defence.
60 mins: France 20-30 Wales
Wales have a 10-point advantage and a man advantage – they are red-hot favourites from here.
PENALTY FOR WALES
At the end of all that Wales are awarded a penalty which Biggar slots from from in front of the posts. It’s Wales leading 30-20
57 mins: France 20-27 Wales
Wales win another penalty and rather than kick the points Biggar kicks for touch.
From the lineout they create a driving maul, they then fling it right and Rees-Zammit goes over for the try. That was a great finish! His whole body was in the air over the touchline, BUT his hand, and with it the ball, is inside the line and over the whitewash.
It’s a try on the pitch BUT Wayne Barnes in the video truck says it’s grounded on the base of the flag so it’s no try. ALSO Haouas sees yellow for collapsing the maul.
55 mins: France 20-27 Wales
Wales continue they good, impressive work. They keeping the ball alive well.
Biggar then kicks deep and pegs France back into their own 22. They break well, though, thanks to a brilliant run from Dulin. Thomas is tackled well by Biggar.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is a great game.
PENALTY FOR FRANCE
You feel France need to score the next points. They give it a good go with Vakatawa trying to get Penaud away on the right it doesn’t work BUT that doesn’t matter as they win a penalty for a no-arms tackle. Ntamack kicks the three points.
It’s now 27-20 to Wales. Wales have made 657 metres to France’s 380. That’s a telling stat.
50 mins: France 17-27 Wales
That’s Wales’ 20th try of the campaign, they’ve never scored more.
Wales look in control and are very impressive at the moment.
TRY FOR WALES!
They check for a knock on in the build up – I can’t see one, nor does the video ref. Then they check for the grounding, and the on-field decision stays. TRY FOR WALES!
Biggar kicks the the extras. It’s now 27-17 to Wales
49 mins: France 17-20 Wales
From the scrum Wales play a couple of crash balls, they’re asking plenty of questions of this France defence. The ball comes to Adams who goes over for what look likes a try…it goes to the video ref…
47 mins: France 17-20 Wales
France concede another penalty for obstruction, Biggar kicks for touch.
From the resulting lineout Wales Davies kicks and win a scrum – the French aren’t looking good under the high ball and Wales are only too aware of this weakness.
PENALTY FOR WALES
From the resulting scrum Faletau breaks from the back. It goes down the backline and they’re in the France 22. They win a penalty and the advantage is played.
They are trying to break through a resolute France defence – the advantage doesn’t come and they go back to the penalty. Do they take the points or kick for touch? They decide to take the points., Biggar slots home from in front of the posts.
Wales lead 20-17.
41 mins: France 17-17 Wales
Wales have a decent platform from which to attack – Davies launches a box kick from which they retain possession. They then kick high to Penaud and it’s knocked on.
40 mins: France 17-17 Wales
We’re back under way in Paris – can Wales win the Grand Slam? The longer it stays this close the more you’d have to favour the Welsh with all their experience.
Wales have had 62 per cent possession and 65 per cent territory.
It’s been a great match so far
HALF TIME: France 17-17 Wales
This match promised much and it certainly is delivering.
It’s fine Saturday night prime-time entertainment. Wales look composed and that bodes well for the second 40 minutes. Both sides have been clinical when in the opposition 22 and it’s making for an enjoyable match.
Long may that continue.
39 mins: France 17-17 Wales
Both sides have done well in staying on the right side of the law – they’re both making good decisions and it’s making for a fine game of rugby.
37 mins: France 17-17 Wales
Wales are coming hard and fast, they’re in the French 22 and using the forward to bash holes in the hosts’ defence. The opportunity for another try ends when Marchand steals it at the ruck, brilliant play from the French hooker.
PENALTY FOR FRANCE
France win a scrum, it’s the first scrum that’s gone badly for Wales, real power shown by the hosts. France then have an attacking lineout, from that set piece they attack down the right.
Wales knock on and it’s another scrum for France. From their they win a penalty for a high tackle. Ntamack, on for Jalibert who is been looked by by a doctor for a knock to the head, slots home the three points and it’s 17-17
29 mins: France 14-17 Wales
It’s been a breathless first 30 minutes, great to watch.
Confident start from both sides. Wales are breaking ground in the centre, this time North breaks clear. He’s been a revelation since moving inside to centre.
Liam Williams knocks on with the ball going wide. Wales are playing well and deserve their lead.
PENALTY FOR WALES
Scrum for Wales in the French half – Davies goes left and his namesake, Jonathan, breaks. Wales win a penalty and Biggar kicks – three from three for him and Wales lead for the first time.
It’s 17-14 for the visitors.
21 mins: France 14-14 Wales
Luke Pearce is doing well as the referee, it’s a very quick game and he’s in control.
20 mins: France 14-14 Wales
It’s been a fine match so far and Brian Moore says on comms that if it continues like this it will end up 59-all. It won’t, though…
TRY FOR WALES!
Good passage of play from Wales. They are keeping the ball alive, and get to within five yards of the try line.
Navidi goes from the back of a ruck and dive over the line for the score. Great composure from Wales, they went through the phases and didn’t panic. It’s 14-14 after 19 minutes after Biggar slots home the extra points
TRY TO FRANCE!
Jalibert tries a grubber kick that Liam Williams deals with well.
France come at them again, this time Dulin comes into the line kicks over and it’s brilliant, Jalibert collects it and offloads to Dupont. Lovely try, and what a game this is so far. Jalibert converts and it’s 14-7 to France
TRY TO WALES!
Wales have a penalty – advantage is played, they are trying using the big men to smash holes in the France defence.
They then fling out to Biggar who dives over from five yards. The No.10 adds the two points and it’s seven all in Paris.
8 mins: France 7-0 Wales
Wales pass the ball wide and win a scrum 30 yards out. They fling it out and Rees-Zammit comes in off his wing and breaks the French line, Davies supports and dives over for what looks like a try.
However, Luke Pearce, the ref, says it’s been held up and it goes upstairs. It’s a great tackle from Ollivon. It looks very harsh but you cannot see clear grounding of the ball so it’s a five-metre scrum.
TRY FOR FRANCE!
The hosts have another penalty and again they kick for the corner, this time they do pile over, lock Taofifenua who reaches over to score. Fly-half Jalibert converts. France lead 7-0 after seven minutes.
5 mins: France 0-0 Wales
From the resulting lineout France create a driving maul before they go down the blind side.
They’re right on the line, they then dive over the whitewash but look like they’re held up. The decision goes upstairs and the onfield decision stays. Great defence by Wales.
4 mins: France 0-0 Wales
Jalibert plays a looping pass that could so easily have been intercepted by Adams.
France are keeping the ball alive well, making the Welsh defence well. It ends with a penalty for the French and Dulin kicks for touch. Breathless opening.
2 mins: France 0-0 Wales
Wales see the ball early on.
Biggar launches a Garryowen which France fail to deal with, there’s an advantage played but the visitors cannot capitalise and France turn the ball over.
1 min: France 0-0 Wales
We’re under way in Paris. Wales have 80 minutes to get their name in the history books.
The teams are out on the pitch
And the national anthems sung – the two best national songs in the Six Nations. I’d say Land of my Fathers just pips La Marseillaise…
The French XV sing their song with a bit more gusto than the Welsh. The Wales players saving their energy for the game?!
A reminder of the sides in black and white
FRANCE XV TO FACE WALES: Dulin, Thomas, Vakatawa, Fickou. Penaud, Jalibert, Dupont, Baille, Marchand, Haouas, Taofifenua, Willemse, Cretin, Ollivon, Alldritt, BENCH: Chat, Gros, Atonio, Rebbadj, Jelonch, Serin, Ntamack, Vincent
WALES XV TO FACE FRANCE: L Williams, Rees-Zammit, North, J Davies, Adams, Biggar, G Davies, W Jones, Owens, Francis. Beard, A-W Jones, Navidi, Tipuric, Faletau, BENCH: Dee, Smith, Brown, Hill, Botham, T Williams, Sheedy, Halaholo
Wayne Pivac speaks…
On what Wales need to do…
“We’ve prepared well, from our point of view it’s important to contain the French attacks. We have to be on point defensively tonight.”
On the size of the task Wales face…
“It’s a big 80 minuets ahead of us but one we’re looking forward to.”
On Welsh supporters…
“If the texts and messages are anything to go by there are millions back home watching and we hope to do them proud.”
A good omen for the Welsh
They are chasing their 13th Grand Slam and back in 1971 secured their sixth Slam in Paris, the last time they won a Slam away from Cardiff.
A quick word on England
Their 32-18 defeat to Ireland in Dublin means they sit just above Italy in the table and have now lost to all three home nations for the first time since 1976.
It was a poor performance – definitely along the lines of their Scotland and Wales defeats rather than their win over France – and leaves serious question marks over a host of players and their coach, Eddie Jones. Here’s the player rankings from the Aviva Stadium and it makes for some uncomfortable reading for England. Ireland v England ratings: Mako Vunipola’s ill-discipline again costly in Six Nations loss
1976 – England have lost their three games against Ireland, Wales and Scotland in a single Five/Six Nations tournament for the first time since 1976. Vintage. pic.twitter.com/fh9dD7xRUK
So how did this unheralded Wales side get to within 80 minutes of a Grand Slam?
It’s a good question and one our very own Ben Coles sought to answer.
In short the set piece has improved from the dismal Autumn Nations Cup campaign, the defence has been dominant when it’s needed to be and Wayne Pivac has stayed true to his beliefs. Read the full article here: How Wales closed in on the unlikeliest Grand Slam of all
Wales’ set piece has been impressive this Six Nations campaignCredit:AFP 7:28PM
Raphael Ibanez speaks…
On naming an unchanged side…
“We want some consistency and continuity.”
On the challenge France face tonight…
“Wales deserve to be where they are. We want to bounce back from the England defeat and are glad to be back at the Stade de France.”
A lot of experience
This is predicted to be a tight match and in close encounters the one thing that can help is experience.
Fourteen of this Wales side have won a Grand Slam and they have between them a mammoth 987 caps. Will that prove to be a telling stat come the final whistle?
Sam Warburton is honest
On Wales going for the Grand Slam the former Wales captain says on BBC’s coverage…
“I didn’t see this coming. Last year they only beat Italy and Georgia.”
Wayne Pivac knows Wales will have to go up a gear
“We are four from four to date but know this weekend will be a great challenge against a very good French side, but we are looking forward to it.
We know we need to step up from our previous performances and we want to end the tournament with a performance we know we are capable of. We have had great continuity in selection throughout the tournament and that is shown once again with the selection for Saturday.”
How good/bad is this Welsh side?
A lot has been written about the class of this Wales side – how they might be the worst side to win a Grand Slam should they prevail this evening. If they do win in Paris then I strongly suspect no Welsh supporters will care whether Wayne Pivac’s side isn’t appreciated by everyone.
However, if you do want to delve into history and rank all the successful slam hunters then read Mick Cleary’s piece here. READ: Every Grand Slam ranked – and why Wales would be the ‘worst’ ever winners if they beat France
I present to you the Wales XV
Wales coach Wayne Pivac has made four changes to the squad that easily beat Italy last week. Second-row Adam Beard comes back into the starting XV, replacing Cory Hill who drops to the bench.
The other changes come on the bench with scrum-half Tomos Williams, who injured his hamstring in the opening win over Ireland, returning. Prop Nicky Smith and back-row James Botham replace Rhys Carre and Aaron Wainwright. Alun Wyn Jones will once again lead Wales, looking to win his fourth Grand Slam in what will be his 148th cap for his country.
14 of the starting XV have won a Grand Slam before.
Here be the French XV
The hosts have named an unchanged starting XV, despite seeing their dreams of a Grand Slam disappear with a heartbreaking loss at Twickenham last week. However, Fabien Galthie has made three changes on the bench with Uini Atonio, lock Swan Rebbadj and centre Arthur Vincent returning for Damien Aldegheri, Cyril Caseaux and Cameron Woki respectively.
Matthieu Jalibert retains the fly-half jersey while the Virimi Vakatawa will be the main threat from the French centres.
Alun Wyn Jones is thinking of the Wales fans back home
Supporters back home in Wales will be on the mind of Alun Wyn Jones and his side when they run out in Paris this evening bidding to win a Grand Slam, writes Ben Coles. Jones, the Wales captain, could win a fourth Grand Slam if Wales can get past France, while it would be a first for Wales head coach Wayne Pivac. “It’s not lost on you,” Jones said. “There is a slight difference with it being away.
To be able to do it in Millennium Stadium when there are 75,000 or however many people watching on TV… I think the TV audience is going to be relatively high in Wales at the weekend. You become very aware of that.
“The privilege and sense of pride we have in representing Wales has been accentuated by the off-field situation that’s going on. We’ve said it from the start of the international season back in the autumn. We haven’t needed to emphasise that.
I haven’t needed to do that within the group. I as an individual, and the team, have not needed reminding of what everyone is facing and what we are representing.”
Covid-19 has meant this would be a Grand Slam unlike any of the other three Jones has experienced. Fourteen of the starting XV who will run out at the Stade de France have won a Slam before, the only exception being wing sensation Louis Rees-Zammit, who was sat in the stands of the Principality Stadium two years ago watching Jones lift the trophy.
“It’s very different to ones we’ve experienced in the past for obvious reasons but inside the camp there are a few of us that are fortunate enough to have been involved in this before,” Jones added. “There is an overriding sense of anticipation and excitement for what is a relatively large fixture.” France’s title hopes took a dent after losing to England but they can still clinch the title, trailing Wales by eight points with two games remaining including next week’s postponed fixture against Scotland. Playing France, as Jones noted, will mean a reunion with former Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards.
“They’ve obviously got a lot of structure and they’ve got the potential to be devastating on the counterattack. They’ve obviously got Antoine Dupont who is pulling the strings and has been the standout figure in the last two campaigns. I’m sure they will continue the hard defence they’ve had under Shaun Edwards.”
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