France toppled by Wales in Paris
France 6 Wales 16:Reigning Six Nations champions Wales ended their dismal run of eight successive defeats by claiming a first win at Stade de France since 2005. Wing George North’s 73rd-minute try condemned pre-tournament favourites France to a second Six Nations loss this season after they were beaten by Italy in Rome last weekend.
Fullback Leigh Halfpenny kicked three penalties and a conversion from his four shots at goal, as Wales quickly consigned last Saturday’s home defeat against Ireland to history.
It was their biggest victory in the French capital for 38 years, and keeps alive chances of retaining a Six Nations title they won in Grand Slam fashion last season. France, though, are bottom of the championship, with two Frederic Michakal penalties their only scoring reward from a game that saw them booed off by a capacity crowd.
A playing surface that cut up badly throughout the contest epitomised an ugly, scruffy French performance before Wales put them out of their misery by scoring 10 points during the final seven minutes. They must now pick themselves up for successive trips to England and Ireland, while Wales face a Rome appointment with Italy in two weeks’ time.
“It’s special, on the back of where we’ve come from these last few months," stand-in captain Ryan Jones told BBC Sport. “It was by no means a flawless display, there were a lot of errors there, but the character and die-hard spirit was something special. We knew our errors last week were our undoing, so we tightened a few things up and we’ve taken the spoils.”
He added: “The players who’ve been here before have come here, stood up and been counted and that’s what it takes Hopefully we’ll kick on from here; winning’s a habit and we’ve got the monkey off our back now.”
Wales went into battle without injured captain Sam Warburton as they aimed to revive their campaign following a 30-22 defeat against Ireland.
Jones skippered in his absence, while flanker Justin Tipuric and hooker Richard Hibbard were also called up and centre Jamie Roberts won his 50th cap.
France, beaten by Italy in Rome six days ago, showed two changes from that game, with juggernaut centre Mathieu Bastareaud handed a start and Toulon lock Jocelino Suta replacing an injured Pascal Pape.
Wales made a bright opening, with scrum-half Mike Phillips and number eight Toby Faletau both running strongly inside the French 22 as Les Bleus found themselves in sustained defensive mode.
After a nightmare first 20 minutes against Ireland, Wales appeared far more cohesive and organised than a week ago, and France only got out of their own half when referee George Clancy awarded them a penalty that Michalak rifled into touch. But France did not require a second invitation to move ahead as Michalak accepted their first scoring chance with a 45-metre penalty that left Wales trailing 3-0.