Wales too strong for France in Six Nations

Wales recovered from their loss to Ireland two weeks ago by beating France 27-6 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Friday night.

The result is Wales’ biggest victory over France since 1950 and puts them back on track to retain their Six Nations title.

So shaken to the core was Wales by its 26-3 demolition from Ireland, the only
unbeaten team left in the tournament, that coach Warren Gatland warned his British
Lions-laden side that careers were on the line at Millennium Stadium.

The players’ answer was a robust performance of power, pace and poise, and
a third straight win over France for the first time in 42 years.

Most of the damage was done in the first half, as the Welsh racked up a 20-6
lead by half-time with full back Leigh Halfpenny kicking five penalties, opening
the score in the first minute.

His only first-half failure with the boot was his conversion attempt for George
North’s try, which came after a mix-up between Brice Dulin and Jean-Marc Doussain
let the Welsh centre in.

In reply, all the French had to show for a lacklustre display were penalties
from Doussain and Jules Plisson.

After his warning New Zealander Gatland said he was delighted by the way Wales responded against a France side who had been eyeing a Grand Slam.

“I am often grumpy with these guys, but I am happy with that,” Gatland told the BBC.

“They responded well, with a good performance and a fantastic result.

“We let ourselves down in Dublin and sometimes you need a watershed moment.

“We were smashed up front against Ireland, they took us apart and we had to have a good hard look at ourselves.”

French full back Brice Dulin admitted: “We didn’t get going at all in the fist half and Wales didn’t give us any way back in.

“The Welsh learned a lot from their loss to the Irish and were a different side.

“We played better in the second half but it was too late by then.”

No sooner had the game kicked off than Wales won a penalty and Leigh Halfpenny calmed the nerves with the first of his five successful penalty kicks in the opening half with the match a mere two minutes old.

Welsh hopes of making history by winning a third successive outright Six Nations title suffered a severe blow against the Irish, while the French arrived in Cardiff cock-a-hoop after home wins over England and Italy. They also came hoping to avoid a fifth successive away defeat for the first time since 1965.

But things simply went from bad to worse for Philippe Saint-Andre’s men as George North harassed full-back Brice Dulin into a mistake close to his line after he had followed up a deft kick ahead by Halfpenny.

The ball trickled out of Dulin’s hands and over the line and North pounced to make it eight points in five minutes for the home side.

Halfpenny missed the conversion, but the Welsh full-back made no mistake with another penalty from near halfway to make it 11-0 after nine minutes.

France were their own worst enemies in an opening half of error after error and even though scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain got them on the scoreboard with a penalty, he missed with another sitter and quickly handed the kicking duties over to his half-back partner Jules Plisson.

He hit the mark once before the break, but Halfpenny kept on rewarding his forwards with successful kicks at goal and Wales were 20-6 ahead at half-time.

The Welsh front row dominated the scrums and the defensive effort from the home side was good enough to keep the French attackers at bay, although it took a knock-on from Eric Bonneval to save the Welsh line from being breached in the 50th minutes after Mathieu Bastareaud had run through North for the first clean line-break from the French.

A minute later referee Rolland, who had earlier warned both packs, sent rival props Gethin Jenkins and Nicolas Mas to the sin-bin f

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