Fourteen-man France stay alive in bizarre game of cards
SIX NATIONS MATCH REPORT: France stayed alive in the championship with an amazing come-from-behind win over Wales in a bizarre game in Paris on Saturday.
Despite being down to 14 men for the last 20 minutes, France denied Wales a Grand Slam with 32-30 win.
The final quarter produced four cards – one red and one yellow to France, with two yellow cards to Wales, who finished the game with 13 men.
Brice Dulin scored an injury-time try to set up the remarkable French win.
Les Bleus can win the title with another bonus-point victory over Scotland this coming Friday.
* Did you miss any of the action? To recap the drama, CLICK HERE!
France came firing out of the blocks, showing their intent by choosing to kick to the corner over taking a penalty goal after five minutes as they searched for a bonus-point victory.
Two line-outs later and lock Romain Taofifenua crashed over from a pick-and-go, Matthieu Jalibert converting.
Wales’ first foray into the opposition half followed the restart and they were denied a score as Gareth Davies was held up in-goal by Charles Ollivon and Gael Fickou.
From the resulting scrum Wayne Pivac’s Welsh team worked through six phases and Dan Biggar went over on a smart crashball, also converting to bring the sides level after 13 minutes.
The hosts reacted within 90 seconds as Dulin put up a clever chip over the Wales defence, Jalibert catching and passing on to halfback partner Antoine Dupont to go behind the sticks.
Jalibert added the extras before Wales responded for a second time in an entertaining opening quarter, Josh Navidi burrowing over to claim his first international five-pointer, Biggar adding the extras to draw level.
Biggar and replacement France flyhalf Romain Ntamack, on for Jalibert after a blow to his jaw, traded penalties to make it 17-all at the interval with Wales in the ascendancy.
They maintained the momentum after the break and Biggar added a second penalty to make it 20-17 after 47 minutes.
Their quick pace at ruck was too much for the France defence and following a lovely grubber kick and favourable reading by the television match official, Josh Adams was awarded a try despite Dylan Cretin’s last-ditch defensive effort.
Biggar took his tally to 17 points for proceedings as Wales led 27-17 with half an hour left.
Fabien Galthie’s home side responded swiftly and Ntamack made it a seven-point game with a penalty after a no-arms tackle from the influential Justin Tipuric.
Sorrow and joy. The two extremes of emotion are the reason why we love sport.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 20, 2021
Busy TMO Barnes
Despite the points, Wales kept a stranglehold on the game as they sensed a 12th tournament clean sweep approaching, and a fourth for skipper Alun Wyn Jones.
They were ruled against once again by TMO Wayne Barnes before Biggar slotted a penalty for a 30-20 score on the hour.
France then spurned a shot a goal for a kick to the corner, Barnes again in action to rule that hooker Julien Marchand had been held up by three Welshman over the line after a rolling maul.
As France camped in the Wales 22-metre area, they worked an overlap and Dulin found a way over but the score was chalked off as Barnes spotted Willemse’s foul play at a ruck.
The South African-born lock was adjudged to have made contact with the eye area of Wales prop Wyn Jones and was shown a red card with 12 minutes left, a third opposition player sent off against Wales during this year’s Six Nations.
France kept on pressuring the Wales line and Welsh No.8 Taulupe Faletau and fullback Liam Williams were both shown yellow cards for cynical play.
In a dramatic finale, French skipper Ollivon scored and with Ntamack’s points from the tee it was a three-point game with as many minutes remaining.
After a series of drives and space out wide, Dulin duly crossed in the corner with the clock 94 seconds into the red to spoil the Welsh party and keep French hopes alive.
Man of the match: Alun Wyn Jones is always good value, Josh Navidi is a workhorse, Taulupe Faletau carries hard, Dan Biggar has a great boot and Louis Rees-Zammit is a threat with ball in hand. Charles Ollivon and Gregory Alldritt are two of the hardest-working players in the French team – both making more than 20 tackles. Our award goes to French scrumhalf Antoine Dupont – who remains the master tactician that drives the French game. He also had a tackle count well into double figures.
Moment of the match: There was so much drama that it is almost unfair to single out one moment. However, the Brice Dulin try in the 82nd minute not only kept the French championship dream alive, it denied Wales a Grand Slam.
Villain: Four cards, but only one was of a nasty nature – the Paul Willemse red card in the 68th minute, when his reckless technique saw his fingers go dangerously into the eye area of an opponent.
Tries: Taofifenua, Dupont, Ollivon, Dulin
Cons: Jalibert 2, Ntamack
Pens: Ntamack 2
Tries: Biggar, Navidi, Adams
Cons: Biggar 3
Pens: Biggar 3
Red card: Paul Willemse (France, 67 – foul play, eye-gouging)
Yellow cards: Mohamed Haouas (France, 58 – cynical foul, collapsing the maul), Taulupe Faletau (Wales, 72 – repeated infringements, offside), Liam Williams (Wales, 73 – repeated infringements, offside)
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Dylan Cretin, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Romain Taofifenua, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julian Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Swann Rebbadj, 20 Anthony Jelonch, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Romain Ntamack, 23 Arthur Vincent.
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (Captain), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 James Botham, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Uilisi Halaholo
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England) & Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Wayne Barnes (England)