France end Welsh Grand Slam quest to set up title tilt against Scotland
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Welsh ill-discipline ended their hopes of their fifth straight win - the Grand Slam - on Saturday night as France made up 10 points in the final minutes to clinch their Six Nations clash 32-30 at the Stade de France.
Leading 30-20 with 14 minutes remaining and France reduced to 14 men after the sending off Paul Willemse, Wales lost Taulupe Faletau and Liam Williams to yellow cards within three minutes.
From a man up to a man down, Wales detonated their opportunity to register a clean sweep in the 2021 competition. The reprieved French sensed blood and feasted.
France skipper Charles Ollivon went over in the 77th minute and Romain Ntamack converted to bring the Welsh to within three points.
The visitors, who were seeking their second Grand Slam in three years, held the ball in midfield but were unable to keep it for the necessary 90 seconds to seal the victory.
Possession was turned over to France who exploited their advantage courtesy of full-back Brice Dulin.
A week after losing at the death at Twickenham, France had won in extremis to keep their hopes alive of a first Six Nations title since 2010.
"We were pretty good for 80 minutes," said Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones.
"But our indiscipline put a lot of pressure on ourselves as well as the French play. We hope we’ve made people back home proud but we weren’t quite good enough tonight."
Bernard Laporte, the chief of the French rugby federation, hailed the courage of the players.
"The team made us proud," he tweetede. "I'm proud of the spirit they showed."
Ce soir le XV de France nous a rendu fiers 🇫🇷— Bernard Laporte (@BernardLaporte_) March 20, 2021
Fiers de l’état d’esprit qui permet à ce groupe de l’emporter face à une très belle équipe.
Fiers du bonheur que cette équipe apporte à ses supporters.
Bravo les bleus 🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/tIV4CVKh1n
The early compliments though were for the visitors who dealt capably with the initial pressure.
But within minutes Wales were level. Dan Biggar crashed over and he converted.
France’s backs then showed their élan. Dulin appeared along the three-quarter line and chipped the ball up, Jalibert collected and handed off to scrum-half Antoine Dupont who trotted under the posts. Jalibert converted to extend the lead.
But Wales came back again to level.
The visitors nudged in front 17-14 following Biggar’s penalty and the hosts returned to all square just before half-time when Ntamack - on for the injured Jalibert - scored his first points of the 2021 Six Nations campaign with a penalty.
But it was the Welsh fly-half, Biggar who scored after the pause to nudge Wales ahead 20-17 and that lead extended to 10 points 27-17 after Biggar converted Josh Adams' try on 51 minutes.
Wales did not have long to rest on their laurels. Ntamack's penalty nibbled into the lead to make it 27-20 and Biggar added three more to make it 30-20 before those fateful 14 minutes.
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