Wales (0) 20 Tries: Halfpenny, S Williams Cons: S Jones 2 Pens: S Jones 2 France (20) 26 Tries: Palisson, Trinh-Duc Cons: Parra 2 Pens: Parra 3, Michalak
Highlights - Wales 20-26 France (UK users only)
By Sean Davies
BBC Sport at the Millennium Stadium
France kept their Grand Slam dream alive in a thrilling Six Nations clash at the Millennium Stadium.
France raced into a 20-0 lead by the break with interception tries for Alexis Palisson and Francois Trinh-Duc and 10 points from Morgan Parra.
Wales fought back through a brace of penalties from Stephen Jones and a Leigh Halfpenny try.
But Frederic Michalak hit two penalties before Shane Williams scored a late record 19th Welsh Championship try.
The French fans, more used to big-match rugby on a Friday night, had arrived early and in force, swamping the still-at-work Welsh on the streets of Cardiff.
The Grand Slam excitement of the visiting fans was evident and it built under the closed roof of the Millennium Stadium, with the Welsh soon joining the carnival atmosphere on the first Friday Six Nations game in the UK.
Both teams caught the mood and looked to put width on the ball, with France left wing Palisson the first to be put into space, but his kick through was covered by Shane Williams.
Wales quickly recycled ball near half-way and spun it to the right with men over, but Palisson spotted James Hook looking for Jamie Roberts with a long miss-pass.
The Brive three-quarter flew out of the line to seize the ball before cantering 50m for a score under the posts that was easily improved by Parra.
Williams 'frustrated' by France loss
Wales' adventure nearly cost them again as a Stephen Jones up-and-under into the France 22 was gathered by Mathieu Bastareaud.
The fired-up centre hurled his formidable bulk forward, and it needed a brave tackle from fly-half Jones to stop him.
Trinh-Duc missed a chance to extend the lead with a drop-goal, but Parra made no mistake with a 40m penalty won after Bastareaud had rampaged over the top of Jamie Roberts and Hook.
With their line-out misfiring for the third successive game, the home side were struggling to secure attacking ball.
A turnover just outside the French 22 allowed Stephen Jones to run a loop with Roberts, but the fly-half's grubber kick just evaded Hook.
Lock Deiniol Jones had taken an early blow and was replaced by Luke Charteris after 25 minutes, and then referee Jonathan Kaplan raised the ire of the home crowd with a controversial penalty decision at a ruck, Parra making no mistake with the 40m kick.
A Shane Williams blind-side break helped rally Wales as the break approached, but the supremely clinical French held firm, with their scrum power repulsing the home side.
In the last move of the half, a desperate Williams tried to run ball from deep in his own half, but the move came to nothing after the wing went for one off-load too many.
The pass went straight to Trinh-Duc and the fly-half raced in for his side's second intercept try, Parra converting to make it 20-0 at the break.
Wales' adventure had cost them dear, but their only choice in the second half was to continue the ambition and seek another great comeback to match their efforts in the win against Scotland two weeks ago.
Williams, celebrating his 33rd birthday, provided the early spark with a delightful kick-through in his own 22.
Shane Williams' record Wales try can't stop France win
Hook hacked on before gathering superbly, but the centre struggled to find the killer, try-scoring pass to Charteris, who knocked on the looped ball.
Wales maintained the pressure in the French 22 and at last got on the scoreboard with a Stephen Jones penalty after lazy running from man-of-the-match Julien Bonnaire at a ruck.
A second Jones kick soon followed as Wales' forwards at last started to rumble.
Les Bleus responded by bringing Dimitri Szarzewski off the bench but inaccuracies at the line-out and in midfield passing continued to cost the men in red.
Lee Byrne unbelievably missed a short-range penalty kick to the corner, gifting the visitors a clearing drop-out 22.
Yet the French error count was also rising and home momentum building, emphasised by a sweeping series of attacks up field sparked by a quickly taken Richie Rees penalty.
With the visitors' defence hauled out of position, ruck ball was spun left where Williams found Halfpenny with an inch-perfect fired pass.
The Blues youngster took it at full tilt, easing into the corner past the despairing Palisson and Clement Poitrenaud.
Stephen Jones converted from the sidelines, with Parra having been sent to the sin bin for slapping the ball down in the build-up to the try.
The equalising try looked sure to come as a Stephen Jones chip over the defence fell into Roberts' arms.
The centre powered forward, but ignored the supporting Hook and Martyn Williams as the chance went begging.
With 10 minutes to go, the 14-man French won a penalty from a line-out, replacement Michalak nervelessly slotting over from 38m to restore his side's two-score lead.
With Parra back as the 15th man, Michalak missed with a long-range drop-goal, France keeping the dangerous men in red at the wrong end of the field.
Gatland proud of Wales in defeat
Lionel Nallet turned over Rees as he tried to run from his own 22, Les Bleus denied a try but winning a third penalty for Parra.
Still Wales would not give up, Byrne sparking an attack that looked to have ended as France hacked clear from their 22.
But Williams regathered and scooted down the left flank before cutting inside with his trademark step to claim his 50th try for his country, breaking Gareth Edwards' record of 18 Championship tries for Wales in the process.
This was one comeback too far for even the great entertainer Williams, though, as Michalak kicked into touch from the restart as France continued on their Grand Slam trail.
Wales: Byrne; Halfpenny, Hook, J Roberts, S Williams; S Jones, R Rees; P James, Bennett, A Jones, B Davies, D Jones, Thomas, M Williams, R. Jones (capt). Replacements: Charteris for D Jones, 25. Not Used: Owens, Gill, Warburton, M Phillips, Bishop, Shanklin.
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