Brice Dulin scored a last-minute try as France fought back to stun Wales 32-30 in Paris on Saturday to keep their Six Nations title hopes alive.
Run of play: With the championship on the line, these two sides produced an enthralling first half to remain in the hunt for the title. Two tries apiece – scored by Romain Taofifenua and Antoine Dupont for France and Dan Biggar and Josh Navidi for Wales – meant the teams were level at 14-14 after the opening quarter of the match. Biggar then knocked over a penalty to put the visitors in front, but Romain Ntamack responded in kind in the closing stages of the half to draw France level again at the midway mark. Wales seized control of the contest immediately after the restart with a 10-point swing via a penalty and a converted try. France were not easily deterred and conjured up some of that French flair as they sought to mount a comeback. One of their attempts originated from an attack that started from their own tryline. Unfortunately, they failed to convert that boldness into points as the Welsh defence stood firm against the onslaught. Biggar reinstated Wales’ 10-point advantage soon after their lead was cut to seven, but there were several dramatic twists to come. France conceded a red card when Paul Willemse was sent off, but Wales were also reduced to 14 men in the latter stages of the game which allowed France to score two tries in the last three minutes to secure as dramatic a victory as they come.
Grand Slam denied: This thrilling result not only kept France alive in the race for the title, but also denied Wales a Grand Slam title win. Wales had beaten all and sundry before this encounter. Leading 30-20 with three minutes to go, they looked set to maintain their winning ways. But a combination of ill-discipline on their part and resilience from the French, left Wales reeling.
Way forward: Wales are still top of the table after five rounds, but France have a game in hand after their fixture against Scotland was postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak within the French squad. Trailing Wales by five log points, France are the only team that can prevent them from winning the title. But it won’t be easy for Les Blues: they have to bag a bonus-point win over Scotland and be victorious by a 20-point margin to claim a first Six Nations title since 2010.
The Biggar man: Notwithstanding the result, the Wales flyhalf had himself a top game on Saturday. Biggar isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and has often copped some criticism for his style of play, which a subject for another day. But in this tournament-defining game that would determine both Wales and France’s fate, the 31-year-old stepped up big time. Biggar scored 20 of Wales’ points courtesy of a try, three conversions and three penalties.
Fast fact: Following the sending off of Willemse, three opposing teams – France, Ireland and Scotland –have now conceded red cards against the Wales in this campaign.
Pre-match prediction: Before this crucial match in the race for the Six Nations title kicked off, we asked SARugbymag.co.za readers to vote on the outcome they expected. A combined 68% voted for France to come away with a win in Paris, while only 32% of voters expected Wales to beat the home side and clinch a Grand Slam title win. And it was the majority who voted for a France victory who got it right.