Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 20 News List

RBS: France end Wales’ Grand Slam dream

ST DAVID’S DAY DOWNER:It’s Wales’ national day today, but the celebrations will be more muted after France ended their quest for back-to-back Grand Slams

AFP , PARIS

France’s Mathieu Bastareaud, right, is tackled by Lee Byrne of Wales during their Six Nations match at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, France, on Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

France dashed Wales’ hopes of a repeat of their Six Nations Grand Slam on Friday, winning a thrilling encounter 21-16.

France scored two tries to one, with Thierry Dusautoir and Cedric Heymans touching down, while Morgan Parra made light of the hosts lacking a specialist goal kicker by adding 11 points.

The Welsh try came from Lee Byrne.

“Wales attacked at the end with a lot of energy and intensity,” said man-of-the-match Imanol Harinordoquy, the French No. 8. “But our defense didn’t break. We won with defense and spirit. At halftime, when the score was 13-13, we knew we could show another face and win the match. We wanted to show what we can do.”

Harinordoquy said that the win justified coach Marc Lievremont’s controversial selections.

“There was pressure on the coach because of all the criticism during the week,” he said. “We are still outsiders to win the championship, but the tournament is very open.”

Wales center Tom Shanklin admitted that defensive frailties had let the champions down.

“Conceding a try right at halftime didn’t help,” said Shanklin, whose team had led 13-3 at one stage. “We needed to play a lot smarter and not play in their half as much. We lost the ball in the contact a few times and you can’t do that against the French.”

The Welsh took an early lead when Stephen Jones slotted over a penalty after referee Mark Lawrence penalized the French for offside.

However, the hosts were level in the seventh minute when Parra also converted a penalty.

Jones, though, restored the three-point advantage a minute later with a penalty from long range after a French player was judged to have played the ball on the ground.

Shanklin was fortunate to stay on the pitch when he tackled Harinordoquy in the air and received a stern ticking off from Lawrence.

The French then thought they had scored a try. Lawrence sent it to the video referee and instead the visitors were awarded a penalty because a French player had handled the ball on the ground.

It was the Welsh who scored the first try as a superb break in midfield by Shanklin saw the ball passed by Stephen Jones from the ensuing ruck out to Byrne, who ran it in unopposed for his seventh try in 25 Tests.

Jones converted to make it 13-3 with 26 minutes gone.

France reduced the deficit in the 35th minute as Parra stroked over a superb penalty from wide out on the right to make it 13-6.

The French then lost fly-half Benoit Baby after he went down with what looked like a knee injury having just knocked on and he was replaced by Francois Trinh-Duc.

The hosts had the last laugh on the stroke of halftime when Dusautoir scrambled over. The try had been effectively created by Harinordoquy, whose storming run was only stopped by a great tackle by Byrne. Parra converted to make it 13-13 at the break.

Parra had a chance to give France the lead for the first time early in the second half when the Welsh were caught offside, but sent his penalty wide.

Wales were rattled by the resurgent French and errors crept into their play and it was from one of these that France’s second try stemmed.

Scrum-half Mike Phillips was penalized for accidental offside and the French played the ball down the line with the Welsh stretched.

France almost ruined the opportunity when they passed the ball behind a player with a three-on-one advantage, but recovered to see Heymans go over.

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