Wales hold off France to claim second behind Ireland

Wales signed off the 2018 Six Nations with a 14-13 victory over France as Warren Gatland’s side secured second place behind Grand Slam winners Ireland.

Following the champions’ 24-15 win against England at Twickenham earlier on Saturday, Wales and France went into the Cardiff clash knowing success would see them seal the runners-up spot.

It looked as though the Principality Stadium crowd could be treated to a classic as both teams crossed in the opening quarter of the game, but thereafter the contest became a more attritional affair where territory and discipline were king.

Liam Williams capitalised on Francois Trinh-Duc’s mistake to score the first try, but Les Bleus recovered smartly and Gael Fickou surged over to keep his side within touch.

Leigh Halfpenny and Maxime Machenaud traded penalties either side of the break and heading into the final 15 minutes the match was still delicately poised at 14-13 in Wales’ favour.

France ought to have gone ahead only for Trinh-Duc to miss a simple shot from the tee and that squandered opportunity ultimately proved decisive as Wales held on to ensure their campaign ended on a high note.

It was a poor miss from Trinh-Duc, who had drawn first blood by slotting a drop-goal in the fourth minute, but the fly-half was then at fault as the hosts struck back immediately.

With a number of Les Bleus stood wondering if the kick-off had travelled 10 yards, Scott Williams sent a grubber through which Trinh-Duc allowed to bounce over his head and behind him, where Liam Williams picked up and slid over.

Halfpenny missed the extras, but nailed two subsequent penalties to stretch Wales’ lead, which was cut to one point midway through the half as Trinh-Duc put Fickou through a gaping hole.

A high shot allowed Halfpenny to dissect the posts again and although Machenaud missed with the last action of the half he was more accurate from the tee nine minutes after the interval.

Liam Williams was punished for offside 12 minutes from time, leaving Trinh-Duc with a relatively simple kick to give France the lead, but the fly-half pulled his effort to the left as the home faithful breathed a sigh of relief.

And that relief turned to delight at the final whistle as, with the clock beyond 80 minutes, Aaron Shingler stole a line-out which allowed Gareth Davies to thump into touch and get the celebrations started.


Key Opta Stats: 

– Wales have won six of the last seven games between these sides in the Six Nations. Five of those seven have been decided by single-figure margins.
– Wales have finished as runners-up in two of the last three editions of the Six Nations.
– Francois Trinh-Duc opened the scoring with a drop goal, the first time a French player had slotted one in the Six Nations since Lionel Beauxis in 2012 against Scotland. News wire is powered by opta

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