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Wales 9-13 France: Sloppy Les Bleus remain on track for Six Nations Grand Slam with win over spirited hosts in Cardiff

France hold on to remain on course for first Six Nations title and Grand Slam since 2010; flanker Anthony Jelonch scores only try; full-back Melvyn Jaminet added eight points with the boot; Dan Biggar struck three penalties for much-improved Wales, who were unfortunate to lose in Cardiff

France's Anthony Jelonch runs through to score a try against Wales in the Six Nations
Image: Anthony Jelonch scored the game's only try as a mis-firing France held on to beat Wales in Cardiff

France remain on course for a first Six Nations title and Grand Slam since 2010 after a sloppy display against a spirited Wales side brought a 13-9 victory in a rousing Cardiff atmosphere. 

Les Bleus flanker Anthony Jelonch scored the only try of the Test, with full-back Melvyn Jaminet adding two penalties and a conversion, but Fabien Galthie's charges put in a stuttering performance filled with knock-ons and avoidable penalties.

Dan Biggar kicked three penalties as Wales played with great heart and effort in front of a crackling crowd of over 63,000 fans, despite the visible capacity issues the WRU faced in the higher tiers behind each end on Friday.

Wales 9-13 France - Score summary

Wales - Pens: Biggar (3, 16, 38).

France - Tries: Jelonch (9). Cons: Jaminet (10). Pens: Jaminet (2, 47).

Wales had more possession than France, far more attacking entries into the 22, and were the more disciplined side on the day in their best performance of this year's championship, but they just could not find the points to show for their efforts in the second half - centre Jonathan Davies knocking on their best chance in the 22 with 13 minutes to go.

France, Wales
Image: French elation and Welsh disappointment greeted the final whistle

France took the lead in the second minute to a chorus of 'Allez Les Bleus' from a tremendous travelling support, as Jaminet struck through a penalty after an Antoine Dupont half-break and offload to Paul Willemse forced Wales to infringe at the breakdown.

Wales responded almost immediately as a Biggar Garryowen saw the visitors guilty of obstruction with the ball in the air, and the Wales out-half confidently bisected the uprights to level things.

France's Melvyn Jaminet kicks a penalty against Wales in the Six Nations
Image: France full-back Melvyn Jaminet kicked the opening points of the Test

Team News

Wales made four changes to the side which lost at Twickenham last time out, with Josh Navidi and Seb Davies coming into the back-row, Jonathan Davies in for the injured Nick Tompkins at centre, and Gareth Thomas starting at loosehead prop.

France lost wing Damian Penaud and second row Romain Taofifenua due to positive Covid-19 tests, and though head coach Fabien Galthie said they were preparing for further changes, no more came to pass. Wing Gabin Villiere was fit enough to return, while star man Antoine Dupont shook off a knock to his arm in training to start.

France would grab the first try, though, and like in impressive victories over Ireland and Scotland so far this championship, it was early with flanker Jelonch rounding off a lovely move on nine minutes.

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Nice feet by Jaminet and a combination with returning wing Gabin Villiere began things with a break up the left, and France finished a flowing sequence after crisp, quick hands along their attacking line facilitated a clinical, ruthless conclusion to a move filled with pace and power.

France's Anthony Jelonch celebrates scoring a try against Wales
Image: France celebrate Jelonch's well-constructed early score at the Principality Stadium

Villiere nearly created a second try within the first 15 minutes for France, with his elusive running and speed too hot for Wales to handle, only for the France wing's pass to be a little in front of Yoram Moefana, before the move later broke down after a Moefana knock-on from a Jonathan Danty pass.

Wales were soon back onto the scoreboard as a superb break off a scrum from Alex Cuthbert up the right flank saw the wing kick ahead, and No 8 Taulupe Faletau show outstanding pace and tenacity to take down Jaminet and force France to seal off at the ruck, allowing Biggar to tap over with ease for 10-6.

Image: Wales skipper Dan Biggar struck three penalties in the Test

A big error followed from France, as they took a quick lineout back into their 22 - crucially from just outside it - and Romain Ntamack cleared the ball out on the full, handing Wales a superb attacking opportunity.

Having claimed the lineout ball, though, Wales' move of choice was for replacement scrum-half Kieran Hardy to balloon a ball high up into the air which the hosts knocked on through Liam Williams mere metres out - surely the wrong tactical ploy when placed in such an advantageous position.

To compound matters, France then forced a penalty at the scrum to complete the exit from a period of pressure with the minimum of fuss, but Wales continued to come at Les Bleus as their fans willed them on.

Principality Stadium
Image: The Test was played out in a fervent atmosphere at the Principality Stadium, with both nations' fans in good voice

A Will Rowlands lineout steal and Jaminet kicking the ball dead put the home side's tails up, but a soft free-kick for closing the gap at a France defensive lineout briefly killed the momentum.

French mistakes continued to come as Willemse knocked on, tighthead Uini Atonio gave away a free-kick at a scrum for an early drive on France's own put-in, and Gregory Alldritt knocked on a high ball just outside his 22, but though Wales pushed hard, physical inferiority in contact halted their progress before hooker Julien Marchand won a turnover penalty.

With five minutes remaining of the first period, a hectic passage saw both sides turn over the ball through knock-ons in midfield, before Biggar produced an exquisite 50:22 off a booming spiral strike.

Image: Biggar and Wales played with great spirit, but just failed to find a way past France

Off that platform, Wales attacked with gusto in the France 22 and ensured a third entry would yield points as Biggar kicked over from close range after Willemse lay on the wrong side, reducing the gap to a single point.

France's final play of the half was perhaps indicative of their frustration at errors in the contest since the opening try, as Jaminet executed a poor drop-goal attempt from 45 metres out, which dropped harmlessly wide of the Wales posts having never elevated in height.

Wales began the second period with confidence on the ball, but their early spell of possession was ended when Villiere and Danty combined at the breakdown to win a penalty.

Thereafter, France showed the quality they possess with ball in hand for the first time in a long while, as Marchand, Alldritt and Danty each broke gainlines, and when Wales lock Adam Beard was caught offside, Jaminet struck his second penalty of the Test.

Image: Jaminet's second-half penalty proved the only points after the break

A magnificent penalty kick to touch from Biggar saw Wales with a five-metre attacking lineout soon after, but a promising rolling maul was held up by the visitors, with France wing Villiere involved again.

An Ntamack knock-on outside his 22 saw Wales come again, but a needless penalty conceded by Faletau for a neck-roll put paid to Wales' chances of adding more points.

Dupont was caught offside near the hour mark, as France struggled to wrestle control of the fixture, but Biggar's cross-field kick to Josh Adams following a Wales lineout near the 22 failed to come off as Jaminet contested aerially.

Into the final quarter of the match, Wales' moment to take the lead came and went as Davies knocked on in the corner after Faletau had claimed a Biggar kick-pass on the run and passed inside.

Jonathan Davies
Image: Jonathan Davies had Wales' best chance of a try in the second half, knocking on near the try-line in the corner

France, badly in need of a score to kill off their enthusiastic and hungry hosts, looked to eke out three more points through an Ntamack drop-goal in reply, but his attempt slipped wide.

Replacement lock Thibaud Flament was pinged for a dangerous cleanout in the next incident of significance, taking Adams above the horizontal, and was perhaps fortunate to avoid yellow.

Dupont exited the fray with eight minutes left, before yet another Wales attacking spell in France's 22 came to nothing as a poor Biggar pass was picked off by Ntamack, and replacement hooker Dewi Lake conceded a penalty.

Jaminet pulled a penalty wide from distance with three minutes to go, handing Wales a reprieve, but amid a deafening chorus of 'Land Of My Fathers', Wales could not get back down into the France third in the time that remained.

It left France to celebrate wildly, knowing they are a victory in Paris away from achieving something no Les Bleus side has done for 12 long years.

Stat of the match

2022 Six Nations standings

Team W D L SD BP P
France 4 0 0 56 2 18
Ireland 2 0 1 67 3 11
England 2 0 1 34 2 10
Wales 1 0 3 -27 2 6
Scotland 1 0 2 -19 1 5
Italy 0 0 3 -111 0 0

What's next?

Wales will conclude their 2022 Six Nations championship with a home fixture against Italy next Saturday, March 19 (2.15pm kick-off GMT).

Wales' 2022 Six Nations

Saturday, February 5 29-7 loss vs Ireland (A) 2.15pm
Saturday, February 12 20-17 win vs Scotland (H) 2.15pm
Saturday, February 26 23-19 loss vs England (A) 4.45pm
Friday, March 11 13-9 loss vs France (H) 8pm
Saturday, March 19 Italy (H) 2.15pm

For France, they will round off the tournament by welcoming England to the Stade de France in the third of next Saturday's fixtures (8pm kick-off GMT), looking to seal a Grand Slam triumph.

France's 2022 Six Nations

Sunday, February 6 37-10 win vs Italy (H) 3pm
Saturday, February 12 30-24 win vs Ireland (H) 4.45pm
Saturday, February 26 36-17 win vs Scotland (A) 2.15pm
Friday, March 11 13-9 win vs Wales (A) 8pm
Saturday, March 19 England (H) 8pm

They must wait until Saturday to see if they will be facing England in a title shootout, or if Ireland are still in the mix, with Eddie Jones' side welcoming the Irish to Twickenham in Round 4.

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