Player ratings: Comeback kings
OPINION: Wales produced a stunning comeback to kick-off the 2019 Six Nations with a 24-19 defeat of France in Paris that stretches their unbeaten run to 10 games.
As rain lashed down on the Stade de France, the hosts coped better with the inclement conditions and raced into a deserved 16-0 half-time lead as Wales paid for simple errors.
However, Les Bleus were quickly pegged back in the second period and thanks in part to the hospitality of their hosts, Wales scored three second-half tries – through Tomos Williams and George North (2) – to secure the biggest fight back in Championship history.
Martyn Thomas rates the Welsh players!
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Liam Williams – 7
Was the one bright spark for Wales during a torrid first half. Knocked on as he tried to slide in to score in the 18th minute and probably should have given the pass to Jonathan Davies on his shoulder, who would have cantered over. But was a constant threat with ball in hand until he was forced from the field with a bloody head in the final quarter.
George North – 7
Showcased his ability to sniff out a try as he poached two five-pointers. For his first he chased what appeared a lost cause as Hadleigh Parkes hacked forward, only to see Yoann Huget spill the ball on the line. His second, scored as he picked off an ambitious Romain Ntamack pass, secured victory. Earlier, as Wales toiled he had been sucked in as Huget scored for France.
Jonathan Davies – 6
Struggled to deal with the conditions and a buoyant French team in the opening 40 minutes. Gave away a reckless penalty for tackling Morgan Parra at the breakdown. But improved markedly after the break, and it was his break that set Wales on the attack that ended with Ross Moriarty’s disallowed try. It was his turnover in stoppage time that ultimately rubber-stamped Wales’ victory.
Hadleigh Parkes – 5
Not his finest evening in a Wales shirt but the centre did provide the kick through that bamboozled Huget and allowed North to score his side’s second try. Like most of his teammates, Parkes improved after half-time and contributed a couple of solid runs with ball in hand, and six tackles without it.
Josh Adams – 7
Gave away an 11th-minute penalty as he desperately tried to help North regain possession but succeeded only in entering from the side. Embodied the improved Wales performance after the break, setting the tone for what was to come with a solid kick-off return. Capitalised on sloppy French defending around the breakdown less than seven minutes later to set up Tomos Williams’ try and kickstart the Welsh comeback.
Gareth Anscombe – 4
Never got to grips with the conditions in Paris. Anscombe set the tone for a shaky performance less than five minutes in as he fizzed a pass to Parkes that the centre could not handle. Caught out of position as Louis Picamoles scored France’s first try, missed two first-half penalties and his decision to keep the ball in play with a free kick at the end of the opening period was punished by Camille Lopez’s drop-goal. Was replaced by Dan Biggar early in the second half but returned to see out victory at full-back.
Tomos Williams – 5
A loose early box-kick was symptomatic of an underwhelming first-half performance as he struggled to keep Wales on the front foot. Williams did not let his head drop, though, and produced a stunning support line to score his side’s opening try. Was replaced by Gareth Davies shortly after North had pounced for the second.
Rob Evans – 6
Was guilty of one of Wales’ nine first-half handling errors but was more than a match for France’s beefy pack. The expected onslaught did not materialise and the Scarlets prop put in a decent shift, which included six tackles, before he was replaced with less than 10 minutes to go.
Ken Owens – 5
Looked up for the contest as he belted out Land Of My Fathers but whether it was the occasion or conditions that got to him, Owens did not enjoy a vintage performance. Failed to connect with two first-half lineouts that robbed Wales of precious momentum and was guilty of a handling error. However, he did contribute 11 tackles and was part of a solid scrummaging effort.
Tomas Francis – 5
Was predicted to be in for a busy night but helped to win an early scrum penalty as Jefferson Poirot was found guilty of collapsing the set-piece. Made six tackles before being replaced by Samson Lee.
Adam Beard – 5
Did not have the impact that he had during the November internationals but took another step towards becoming a dependable regular at this level, nonetheless. Made a nuisance of himself just before half-time to help halt a French maul that was rumbling towards the Welsh line.
Alun Wyn Jones – 6
Was uncharacteristically subdued for large spells of this contest yet still managed to get through his share of defensive work – making 13 tackles in all. Was perhaps unfairly judged to have obstructed Picamoles in the build-up to Moriarty’s disallowed try but then did brilliantly to help hold up the French number eight and force a free-kick five minutes later.
Josh Navidi – 7
Defensively Navidi was Wales’ standout player in the first-half. It was the Cardiff Blues flanker who won the turnover to start the move that ended with Liam Williams knocking-on over the line, contributing a carry along the way. Caught the handling bug but linked with Alun Wyn Jones in the second half to force a crucial free kick from Picamoles.
Justin Tipuric – 8
Played a part in the defensive effort – alongside Beard – to halt the French maul at the end of the first half. In the second he highlighted his importance to Gatland’s side, chasing lost causes, getting a hand to Lopez’s attempted drop-goal, putting pressure on the French lineout and harrying Les Bleus’ attack. Finished the game with 19 tackles – c’est magnifique.
Ross Moriarty – 7
Considering he had not played since December 15 because of concussion this was an epic performance from the Dragons back-row. Moriarty put his body on the line for his side, finishing the game with 17 tackles and should perhaps have had a five-pointer to celebrate too had that marginal call not gone against him.
Elliot Dee – 5
Came on with just over seven minutes to play. Did help seal a late scrum penalty but then was unable to locate a red shirt with the resulting lineout.
Wyn Jones – 5
Like Dee, arrived late and did nothing wrong without affecting the game. Did help seal a late scrum penalty.
Samson Lee – 6
Came on for Francis midway through the second-half. Was part of the front-row that got turned and conceded a penalty that Lopez converted. Was a colossus in defence, making 10 tackles.
Cory Hill – 6
Replaced Beard early in the second half and put his body on the line, making 10 tackles.
Aaron Wainwright – N/A
Came on for the last two minutes and with his first involvement helped to turn France over on the Welsh 22.
Gareth Davies – 5
Initially calmed Wales with his assuredness but as the second half wore on his rustiness showed. Was intercepted by Ntamack and knocked on as the Welsh pack went backwards late on.
Dan Biggar – 7
Brought a calmness to the Wales attack after the arrears had been cut to two points. Carried well in the move that ended in Moriarty’s disallowed try. Kicked the two opportunities he had from the tee and his only blemish was the penalty he gave away when caught in possession by Felix Lambey.
Owen Watkin – N/A
Came on with around three minutes to go. Not enough time to make an impression.
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