France 32-30 Wales: Brice Dulin snatches last-gasp Six Nations win for hosts to deny visitors the Grand Slam
Brice Dulin's try, plus scores from Romain Taofifenua, Antoine Dupont and Charles Ollivon sealed a bonus-point win for France, despite having Paul Willemse sent off; Dan Biggar, Josh Navidi and Josh Adams crossed for Wales, who had two men sin-binned late on
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 21/03/21 9:50am
Brice Dulin's try on the final play of the game denied Wales the Grand Slam and kept France's Six Nations title hopes alive with a 32-30 win in a thrilling clash in Paris.
A breathless opening to the contest led to the teams going into half-time with the match finely poised at 17-17, with Romain Taofifenua and Antoine Dupont crossing for tries for France, and Dan Biggar and Josh Navidi doing likewise for Wales.
There was more drama to come after the break, with two TMO decisions seemingly proving pivotal for Wales in awarding a try for Josh Adams and then deeming Paul Willemse guilty of foul play which saw the Frenchman sent off.
Yet two yellow cards for the visitors in quick succession meant it was them who had the numerical disadvantage for the remainder of the game and the pressure eventually told as Charles Ollivon and Dulin crossed late on to snatch a bonus-point win from the jaws of defeat.
The hotly-anticipated showdown at the Stade de France lived up to its billing from the opening moments, with Les Bleus being unfortunate not to take the lead within the first four minutes as Cyril Baille was held up over the line after the hosts had kicked to touch from an early penalty.
But the resulting five-metre scrum saw Fabien Galthie's men press home that early advantage as Taofifenua forced his way over from close range for a converted try after Gregory Aldritt and Paul Willemse were both repelled by the Welsh defence.
Wales immediately rallied though and, after having a possible try from Gareth Davies ruled out by a TMO review, were back on level terms with 12 minutes on the clock - also taking advantage of a five-metre scrum.
The Welsh forwards took the ball up and then Biggar ran a smart line to take a pass and burst through a gap in the defensive line to dot down, with the fly-half converting his own score.
A sumptuous piece of attacking play from the home side got them back in front with a second converted try on the quarter-hour mark as full-back Dulin put in a kick over the top of the defence which was gathered by Mattheiu Jalibert who in turn sent half-back partner Dupont racing away to finish.
Once again though, Wales shook that off to hit back, this time patiently working the ball through the phases and seeing that pay off when Navidi burrowed his way over from close range followed by Biggar adding the extras.
The second quarter proved somewhat quieter in terms of try-scoring, while France's cause was not helped by losing try-scorer Taofifenua and fly-half Jalibert to injury. Jalibert's replacement Ntamack ensured the sides went in level at the break though with a penalty to cancel out Biggar's kick.
Biggar edged Wales back in front with another penalty seven minutes after the restart and they put themselves firmly in the driving seat three minutes later.
The move was started by a kick from flanker Justin Tipuric which was taken by Adams, who hacked the ball forward for replacement scrum-half Tomos Williams to gather and then send the winger over for a try which was confirmed by the TMO despite France's protestations the ball was held up.
Ntamack reduced the deficit to seven points with his second penalty of the night, but although Louis Rees-Zammit then had an acrobatic effort ruled out by the TMO, a yellow card for Mohamed Haouas for illegally stopping a maul and another Biggar penalty kept Wales in the ascendancy.
Despite being temporarily down to 14 men, France roused themselves and it took some scrambling defence from the visitors to prevent hooker Julien Marchand getting the ball down and they thought they had scored through Dulin with just under 15 minutes to go.
However, a lengthy TMO review spotted foul play by Willemse in the build-up and it resulted in the try being chalked off and the second row being sent off for contact with Wyn Jones' eye while he was clearing out a ruck.
There was a further twist inside the final 10 minutes though as Taulupe Faletau was shown a yellow card for collective infringements by the visitors in their 22 as France threw caution to the wind, followed by Liam Williams receiving another moments later.
The pressure eventually told with just under four minutes to go as Ollivon powered his way over from a scrum five metres out, with Ntamack adding the conversion to narrow the gap to three points.
The hosts sensed their chance following the restart and threw everything at Wales, and although they were repelled time and time again they eventually worked the numbers out wide where Dulin took a pass in open space to finish wide on the left and complete an improbable triumph.
France now prepare to host Scotland in their all-important re-arranged match next Friday, where they need a bonus-point win and to finish with a superior points difference to Wales to be crowned Six Nations champions for the first time since 2010.