Wales steal Paris spoils
Sat, 09 Feb 2013 18:47
It's been a long time coming
A late George North try saw Wales snatch a 16-6 victory over France in an otherwise dour Six Nations clash in Paris on Saturday.
For a woeful France side it was the first time since 1982 they had lost their opening two matches in the Six Nations and coach Philippe Saint-Andre is left with a massive job to rebuild morale with a trip to England in a fortnight.
"Words cannot describe how much this means - what a fantastic feeling," said Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny.
"The boys played unbelievably well. We dug deep to get this fantastic win - it's been a long time coming."
The opening 10 minutes saw Wales camped in the French half, but ruining any incisive move with a forward pass or a knock-on, while Dan Biggar's drop-goal attempt fell well short.
The French struck with their first scoring opportunity when referee George Clancy penalised Wales for collapsing the scrum and Frederic Michalak kicked the penalty.
However, they were all square soon afterwards as France fell foul of Clancy and Halfpenny slotted over the penalty.
Wales were playing with much more discipline and purpose than in the first-half of their defeat against the Irish last week - when they conceded 23 points - but they could not breach the French defence with full-back Yoann Huget dealing with everything thrown at him.
A distinctly mediocre first-half - not aided by a pitch that cut up badly - ended 3-3 with the players exiting to a chorus of booing from spectators braving freezing temperatures in the French capital.
The Welsh took the lead early in the second-half when Halfpenny kicked a penalty after a storming run by scrumhalf Mike Phillips got his team deep into French territory.
The hosts missed a golden opportunity to draw level immediately afterwards when Francois Trinh-Duc, who came on at half-time for Benjamin Fall, sent a relatively easy drop-goal wide.
They did get back on equal terms in the 53rd minute when Michalak converted a penalty after Wales collapsed the scrum.
Saint-Andre rang the changes completely at this point replacing his entire front row and taking off the ineffective Maxime Machenaud at scrumhalf and sending on Morgan Parra.
The Welsh pinned the French back in their half but again failed to press home their territorial advantage as North, bursting in from the wing into midfield, knocked on from the simplest of passes.
The errors kept on piling up and the paucity of quality play was summed up when Michalak, with time to think, passed the ball not into Huget's arms but into his face allowing the Welsh to recover the ball.
Wales took full advantage from the ensuing passage of play.
Biggar kicked behind the defence and the ball bounced kindly for North who, despite being tackled by Tinrh-Duc, was able to touch down before his foot went into touch.
Halfpenny landed a superb conversion to make it 13-6 and added a penalty shortly after to rub salt into French wounds.
Man of the match: There were not many candidates in a disappointing match, but Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny did not miss a kick at goal and was generally solid throughout.
Moment of the match: At 6-6 with just minutes remaining the game looked to be heading towards a dour draw, but George North managed to latch on to a cross-kick to go over in the left corner and clinch victory for his side.
Villain of the match: The pitch, which was incredibly soft and cut up very easily, was the biggest candidate.
Pens: Michalak 2
Pens: Halfpenny 3
France: 15 Yoann Huget, 14 Wesley Fofana, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Benjamin Fall, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Louis Picamoles , 7 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Yannick Forestier.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Damian Chouly, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Francois Trinh-Duc, 23 Florian Fritz.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ryan Jones (captain), 5 Ian Evans, 4 Andrew Coombs, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Scott Williams.
Referee: George Clancy
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