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France 21-16 Wales

France: (13) 21
Tries: Dusautoir, Heymans Con: Parra Pens: Parra 3

Wales: (13) 16
Try: Byrne Con: S Jones Pens S Jones 2, Hook

By Gareth Roberts

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Video highlights - France 21-16 Wales

France destroyed Wales' hopes of back-to-back Grand Slams as they defied a late Welsh onslaught in Paris.

The visitors led 13-3 after 24 minutes, but France were level 13-13 at the break and the hosts deserved victory.

France's tries came from Thierry Dusautoir and Cedric Heymans, scrum-half Morgan Parra kicking 11 points.

Lee Byrne crossed for Wales, Stephen Jones and James Hook kicking the rest of their points in their first Six Nations defeat under Warren Gatland.

Fly-half Jones was the catalyst for Wales' opening points, which he kicked. Julien Malzieu failed to deal with his up-and-under and after Byrne was blocked on the left, France were caught offside and the visitors were ahead after three minutes.

The hosts responded with a series of powerful drives in which Sebastien Chabal and Lionel Nallet were prominent and which prompted Martyn Williams to kill the ball illegally for Parra to level the scores after six minutes.

A further three minutes into the encounter Jones sent his second shot at goal between the posts after France again fell foul of the offside line.

After Leigh Halfpenny made the first glaring error of his fledgling wing career, dropping a clearance while under no pressure, makeshift fly-half Benoit Baby singled him out for special attention.

Yannick Jauzion put pressure on Halfpenny from Baby's lofted kick and after France won possession they were within a few metres of the Welsh line only for Jamie Roberts to stop the threat in its tracks with a terrific tackle on Cedric Heymans.

Lee Byrne

Video - Byrne scorches in for Wales's try

In the process France were again penalised allowing Byrne to clear the danger.

However, France surged back up field, continuing to take the game to Wales only for hooker Dimitri Szarzewski's final drive to be denied by handling in a ruck within a whisker of the visitors' line.

One of the most bizarre incidents to have happened on a pitch then unfolded, scrum-half Mike Phillips' kick hitting the overhead camera, albeit without any direct impact on the contest.

Despite the scoreline, Wales' defence had been under immense pressure in the opening quarter, but the score was to come at the other end.

Tom Shanklin - perhaps fortunate to still be on the field after a clumsy challenge in the air on Imanol Harinordoquy - got beyond the gain-line and from there fly-half Jones picked out Byrne's superb angle for the full-back to race 35 untouched metres to the line. Jones converted the 24th-minute try.

France remained largely in control of possession, but Wales' defence ensured they did not take advantage until the 35th minute when full-back Maxime Medard's burst brought a penalty Parra kicked.

Roberts saved Wales from another Medard attack, turning to bring the Frenchman down on the hosts' 22 and from the resulting scrum Baby dropped Parra's pass and suffered a knee injury in the process.

That led to Baby being changed, his place taken by Francois Trinh-Duc, but that did not dim French morale.

Nor did Wales demolishing a French scrum have a negative effect on the hosts. Instead, they responded emphatically as Harinordoquy picked up and burst through a skipper Ryan Jones's poor attempt at a tackle to set up the series of rucks that ended with Thierry Dusautoir touching down.

Parra converted with the final kick of the opening period to tie the scores 13-13.

606: DEBATE
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Trinh-Duc's unforced knock-on gave Wales the first attacking platform after the break and a Martyn Williams charge down posed more danger for the hosts only for Gatland's men to be penalised a few metres short for diving in at the ruck.

That allowed France to relieve the pressure, but at the other end Parra missed a 47th-minute kick at goal after Wales fell offside at a scrum.

The next penalty also went France's way, prompting South African referee Mark Lawrence to warn Wales his patience was wearing thin, all the while Ian Gough receiving post-collision treatment for a second time.

Wales needed all their defensive qualities to the fore as France continued to pile forward, Shanklin and flanker Williams saving Wales on more than one occasion.

However, a Medard kick ahead caught Wales out, Andy Powell chasing back only for the visitors to commit an accidental offside.

From the scrum, France attacked in numbers and Heymans cut inside to score, giving Marc Lievremont's side the lead for the first time. Parra failed to convert.

Gatland's response was to send Dwayne Peel on for Phillips, Gavin Henson for Roberts and Huw Bennett for Matthew Rees.

The television overhead camera

Match ball hits overhead camera in Paris

French reinforcements were not far behind, Chabal making way for Romain Millo-Chluski and Thomas Domingo taking over from Sylvain Marconnet.

More crucially for Wales, this was the moment when Ryan Jones and his team-mates knew might await them - the test of their mettle going into the final quarter behind and under huge pressure from their opponents.

Wales had spent little time in French territory for long periods as the hosts' tactical approach paid dividends.

The visitors' cause was not helped by continuing to give away penalties. Parra's long-range 50-metre shot after 65 minutes hitting the post was a brief relief as Jauzion broke through moments later to set up a drop-goal attempt Trinh-Duc missed to leave the game on a knife-edge.

Gatland then introduced James Hook for fly-half Jones as Wales sought to strike back. But it fell to Parra to make France's second-half superiority tell and this time he hit the mark to put France 21-13 ahead with 10 minutes left.

Hook brought Wales back within a converted try of victory with a 72nd-minute penalty after Byrne almost broke free.

Wales almost rescued their Grand Slam hopes in a dramatic closing five minutes.

Byrne set up a late Welsh effort with a pin-point kick to the corner, from where Williams almost went over.

When Wales recycled and spun the ball wide, Henson went to the line himself but was denied. From their final attack, Byrne then could not take a flat pass and the chance was gone.


France: Medard; Malzieu, Bastareaud, Jauzion, Heymans; Baby, Parra; Barcella, Szarzewski, Marconnet, Nallet, Chabal, Dusautoir, Ouedraogo, Harinordoquy.
Replacements: Trinh-Duc for Baby (37), Tillous-Borde for Parra (72), Kayser for Szarzewski (65), Domingo for Marconnet (57), Millo-Chluski for Chabal (57).
Not Used: Picamoles, Poitrenaud.

Wales: Byrne (Ospreys); Halfpenny, Shanklin, Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), Phillips (Ospreys); Jenkins (Blues), Rees (Scarlets), Adam Jones, Gough, Alun Wyn Jones, R Jones (Ospreys), M Williams, Powell (Blues).
Replacements: Henson (Ospreys) for Roberts (55), Hook (Ospreys) for S Jones (70), Peel (Sale) for Phillips (55), Bennett (Ospreys) for Rees (55), Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons) for Gough (71), D Jones (Scarlets) for Powell (62).
Not Used: Yapp (Blues).

Att: 80,000

Ref: Mark Lawrence (South Africa).



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see also
Wales paid for errors - Gatland
28 Feb 09 |  Welsh
France v Wales as it happened
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France surprise with Baby at 10
25 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Gatland issues Henson challenge
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France 22-13 Scotland
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Ireland 30-21 France
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Wales 23-15 England
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Scotland 13-26 Wales
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Wales' rugby fixtures
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Wales rugby results archive
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BBC Sport Wales coverage
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Coming up next on Scrum V...
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