France outplay Wales in Paris
MATCH REPORT: France scrumhalf Antoine Dupont scored twice in his side’s 38-21 victory over Wales on Saturday in Paris ahead of next weekend’s final round of the Six Nations.
Dupont crossed before the interval thanks to superb play from Virimi Vakatawa on both occasions as les Bleus prepared for Saturday’s potential title decider with Ireland.
Wayne Pivac’s visitors lost a fourth straight international for the first time since 2016. They will host Scotland in the Six Nations in seven days’ time.
France coach Fabien Galthie made three changes from loss to Scotland in March as Teddy Thomas, Vincent Rattez and Cyril Baille replaced the injured Damian Penaud, centre Arthur Vincent and the retired Jefferson Poirot.
Pivac’s captain Alun Wyn Jones equalled former New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw’s record of 148 Test appearances as hooker Sam Parry and wing Louis Rees-Zammit were handed international debuts from the bench.
Pivac’s men opened the scoring in quick fashion as Leigh Halfpenny crossed for his 15th Test try on 60 seconds after Gregory Alldritt dropping Dan Biggar’s kick-off.
Biggar kicked his first penalty goal five minutes later before les Bleus prop Baille opened his international account just before the quarter of an hour mark.
As the home side made ground into Wales’ half after 20 minutes, back-rower Francois Cros carried well and Bernard Le Roux cleared Jones out at a ruck.
As the pair fell to ground the Racing 92 lock’s right elbow made contact with the second row’s face but referee Karl Dickson missed the incident and it was not picked up by the television match official.
Biggar kicked another penalty before the hosts took the lead after Vakatawa’s first display of class after half an hour.
The New Zealand-born centre found space near the touchline before off-loading with one hand to find wing Teddy Thomas.
Dupont’s support line was impeccable and picked off Thomas’ pass to cross for his opening try and Romain Ntamack’s conversion made it 14-13.
The lead was extended five minutes before the break as Vakatawa again found space behind the defensive line before drawing Halfpenny to send Dupont over for his maiden international double.
Ntamack and Biggar traded shots at goal and Galthie’s men had a 24-16 advantage with a quarter of the match to play before Biggar failed with an effort.
Winger Louis Rees-Zammit made his Test bow with 17 minutes to go before Biggar missed the chance to cut the gap to five points once again as his long-range penalty drifted to the left of the posts.
The victory was sealed with a quarter of an hour left as the hosts captain Charles Ollivon charged over and a Ntamack conversion made it 31-16.
Wales’ consolation came with 11 minutes to play as Nicky Smith crossed from short range but Biggar missed the extras leaving eight points in total on the tee.
The home side had the last say as Thomas dived over for a 12th try in 20 Tests after a delicate chip-and-chase as Wales lost a fourth straight international for the first time since 2016.
Tries: Baille, Dupont 2, Ollivon, Thomas
Cons: Ntamack 5
Tries: Halfpenny, Smith
Pens: Biggar 3
France: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Francois Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Dylan Cretin, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Thomas Ramos, 23 Arthur Vincent.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias 1 Rhys Carre.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Seb Davies, 20 James Davies, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Louis Rees-Zammit.
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy, Ian Tempest
TMO: Brian MacNeice