France 41-28 Wales: Les Bleus claim Six Nations bonus-point win before Ireland secure Grand Slam
Damian Penaud (two), Jonathan Danty, Uini Atonio, Gael Fickou score tries as France secure bonus-point Six Nations win vs Wales; George North, Bradley Roberts and Tomos Williams score for Wales
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 18/03/23 7:40pm
France finished their Six Nations campaign in second spot behind Grand Slam champions Ireland, despite signing off with a 41-28 bonus-point win against Wales in Paris.
Wales started brightly, taking the lead through a George North try, but they were largely blown away thereafter, as France scored five tries through wing Damian Penaud (two), inside-centre Jonathan Danty, tighthead Uini Atonio and outside-centre Gael Fickou.
France 41-28 Wales - Score summary
France - Tries: Penaud (10, 77), Danty (34), Atonio (44), Fickou (49). Cons: Ramos (12, 35, 45, 50, 79). Pens: Ramos (26, 30).
Wales - Tries: North (8), Roberts (56), Williams (66), Dyer (80). Cons: Biggar (8, 57, 67), Halfpenny (80+1).
France full-back Thomas Ramos also kicked flawlessly, landing all five conversions and two penalties at the Stade de France, while Wales did notch further tries when far back on the scoreboard through replacement hooker Bradley Roberts, replacement scrum-half Tomos Williams and wing Rio Dyer.
The victory temporarily moved France top of the Six Nations standings, only for Ireland to take the title and complete their fourth Grand Slam with a 29-16 victory over England in Dublin.
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- France 41-28 Wales: As it happened
Wales started the better, and made all the running in the Test for the opening eight minutes, and that pressure was deservedly rewarded when North ran in for the first try untouched by the posts, after a rolling maul had been stopped just short.
France hit straight back, though, with virtually their first attack of the match as Romain Ntamack caused havoc to race through the middle of Wales and offload for Antoine Dupont, who then produced a long pass for Penaud to collect and score.
Ramos converted exquisitely to level the contest, and though Wales were back onto the front foot soon after, a France scrum penalty won against the head on their own 22 allowed them to clear. But Les Bleus were soon fortunate to avoid a yellow card for a Fickou tip-tackle on Alun Wyn Jones, which referee Nic Berry decreed as a penalty-only offence.
France head coach Fabien Galthie kept changes to a minimum, with two changes made from the side which destroyed England at Twickenham. Uini Atonio returned from suspension at tighthead for Dorian Aldegheri, who dropped out of the matchday 23 altogether. The other change saw Romain Taofifenua replace the injured Paul Willemse in the second row.
Dan Biggar, George North, Alun Wyn Jones, Nick Tompkins, Aaron Wainwright, Louis Rees-Zammit were brought in to start for Wales at the Stade de France as Warren Gatland made at least five changes for fourth game running. Liam Williams (shoulder) was out injured, while centres Mason Grady, Joe Hawkins, back-row Jac Morgan were dropped from entire squad.
On 26 minutes, France hit the front as Ramos struck through the uprights after a superb piece of breakdown play from hooker Julian Marchand brought a penalty. And before long, an error in communication between Wales half-backs Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb ultimately resulted in Ramos kicking his second three-pointer, after Les Bleus forced another scrum penalty.
Six minutes from the half-time break, France ruthlessly struck at pace for their second try as centre Danty slid in after France had dragged Wales one side and then the other, with Rio Dyer no match as the final defender for the physical midfielder.
In a role reversal of the start to the opening period, France started well on top at the beginning of the second, with Atonio striking out wide for Les Bleus' third try just four minutes after the break, bouncing off Louis Rees-Zammit to get over.
Five minutes later, the bonus-point was secured as Fickou just had too much pace and power for Wales' defensive line, sprinting in to ground France's fourth try of the day.
Wales showed spirit to hit back through tries from Roberts and Williams, both sniping well to get over from close range, and France were never unduly troubled as far as the result was confirmed.
Indeed it was Penaud who seemed to have had the final say, touching down for his second try in the corner after another quick attack across the pitch and a lovely Ramos offload, only for Dyer to speed in for a fourth Wales try in the final play.
2023 Six Nations standings
What they said... Gatland: Wales showed real character
Wales head coach Warren Gatland...
"I thought we showed some real character. We started well, just we gave them a couple of soft tries.
"The game could have gone away from us significantly but the impact of the bench was excellent.
"There was a lot of improvement in today's performance but we're not quite there, there's a lot to do [ahead of the World Cup]."
France complete their 2023 Six Nations campaign with a record of four wins and a single defeat, having beaten England at Twickenham, Italy in Rome, as well as Scotland and Wales at the Stade de France, but lost to Ireland in Dublin.
France's Six Nations 2023 fixtures
|Sunday, February 5||Italy 24-29 France|
|Saturday, February 11||Ireland 32-19 France|
|Sunday, February 26||France 32-21 Scotland|
|Saturday, March 11||England 10-53 France|
|Saturday, March 18||France 41-28 Wales|
Fabien Galthie's side are next in international action in August for their Rugby World Cup warm-up Tests, with two games announced so far vs Scotland (August 5) at Murrayfield, and Scotland (August 12) at a venue in France as yet unconfirmed.
Wales finish their campaign with four defeats from five and just avoid the Wooden Spoon, after home defeats to Ireland and England, a victory over Italy in Rome, and losses on the road to Scotland and France.
Wales' Six Nations 2023 fixtures
|Saturday, February 4||Wales 10-34 Ireland|
|Saturday, February 11||Scotland 35-7 Wales|
|Saturday, February 25||Wales 10-20 England|
|Saturday, March 11||Italy 17-29 Wales|
|Saturday, March 18||France 41-28 Wales|
Gatland's charges have announced three Rugby World Cup warm-up fixtures for August: vs England (August 5) and vs South Africa (August 19) in Cardiff, and vs England (August 12) at Twickenham.