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France reduce Wales to basement dwellers

MATCH REPORT: France almost certainly ensured Wales will finish with the Six Nations wooden spoon.

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After a competitive and entertaining first half in Cardiff on Sunday, with France leading just 20-17, Les Bleus turned on the charm to pull away ruthlessly in the second half and record a 45-24 win.

It saw France move from second-to-last to third place in the standings – leaving Wales rooted to the foot of the table, four points behind Italy.

The game was evenly poised until the French replacements came on early in the second half – with Georges-Henri Colombe and Romain Taofifénua having crossed within the space of five minutes, following a prolonged spell of French pressure, to bring up the bonus point and then it was one-way traffic.

Thomas Ramos kicked 20 points to extend France’s Six Nations win streak over a winless Wales to five.

Five tries from Gael Fickou, man-of-the-match Nolann Le Garrec, George-Henri Colombe, Romain Taofifenua and Maxime Lucu ensured the French a second victory in the tournament and third place in the table.

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The result consigned Wales, who scored three tries through Rio Dyer, Tomos Williams and Joe Roberts, to a 13th defeat in their last 15 Six Nations matches.

It also sets up Wales for a wooden spoon decider against Italy next week, with the Welsh staring at five defeats in the Six Nations for the first time since 2003.

Wales could not have asked for a better start to what turned out to be a helter-skelter first 40 minutes, France penalised as Tommy Reffell went for the turnover and Sam Costelow made no mistake for the opening three points after just 90 seconds.

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France came firing back, Le Garrec and Ramos, playing at No.10 rather than his usual fullback position, utilising the raw power of Uini Atonio and Emmanuel Meafou to devastating effect.

Wales strayed offside and Ramos drew the scores level from in front of the posts.

Then out of nothing, Dyer sliced through the French defence for an opportunistic try, converted by Costelow.

Ramos booted a second penalty for the visitors after the Welsh scrum popped up before Fickou easily rode a Costelow tackle to finish off some slick recycled ball for a try in the corner to hand France the lead.

Ramos converted, but the topsy-turvy nature of the game once again exploded as Owen Watkin exploited a chink in the French armour and found Tomos Williams on his inside, the scrum-half going over for Wales’ second try, converted by Costelow.

Williams’ counterpart Le Garrec swung the momentum back the way of France as he darted over from short range after a Fickou charge, Ramos converting to make it 20-17 at half-time of a match that would have left the two teams’ respective defence coaches seething.

Any thoughts of France utilising their superior forward power to put a lid on the game early in the second period were dispelled when Roberts, chosen ahead of the vastly-experienced centre George North, wrestled his way over for a the home side’s third try after a smart Williams break.

Costelow converted to hand Wales the lead before Ramos hit his third penalty to move France within one point.

The French suddenly looked the much better side against a Wales team decidedly on the backfoot in desperate defence.

While Thibaud Flament had a try disallowed, it was eventually replacement prop Colombe who broke the deadlock after Damian Penaud made a searing break down his right wing and Le Garrec kept the ball alive.

Ramos converted and hit another two points after giant lock Taofifenua charged down Gareth Davies’ clearance kick and was first to get to the ball over the line.

Wales were guilty of losing their composure, trying to run the ball out from deep as France closed down the game, Lucu making the most of a Penaud offload for a final try in the corner.

The scorers

For Wales
Tries: Dyer, Williams, Roberts
Cons: Costelow 3
Pen: Costelow

For France
Tries: Fickou, Le Garrec, Colombe, Taofifenua, Lucu
Cons: Ramos 4
Pens: Ramos 4

Teams:

Wales: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Joe Roberts, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Tomos Williams; 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Dafydd Jenkins (captain), 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Gareth Thomas
Replacements: 16 Evan Lloyd, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Alex Mann, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Mason Grady.

France: 15 Leo Barre, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Nicolas Depoortere, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Nolann Le Garrec, 8 Gregory Alldritt (captain), 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Sébastien Taofifénua, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Yoram Moefana

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Damian Schneider (Argentina)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

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