Wales rum­ble on as French are dealt with in muted style

The Herald - Herald Sport - - RUGBY UNION -

WALES moved top of the Six Na­tions Cham­pi­onship af­ter record­ing a fifth suc­ces­sive vic­tory over France to set up a po­ten­tial ti­tle show­down with Eng­land in two weeks’ time.

Eng­land will re­claim pole po­si­tion if they beat Ire­land to­day, but Wales are also firmly in the mix for Six Na­tions sil­ver­ware af­ter wing Ge­orge North’s se­cond-half break­away try un­der­pinned an un­spec­tac­u­lar 19-10 suc­cess in Cardiff.

Fly-half Dan Big­gar con­verted North’s touch­down and kicked four penal­ties for a 14-point haul, while his op­po­site num­ber Jules Plis­son replied with a penalty and French skip­per Guil­hem Guirado claimed an 80thminute try that Fran­cois Trinh-Duc con­verted.

Wales showed three changes from the side that claimed an eighth suc­ces­sive vic­tory over Scot­land ear­lier this month, with starts for wing Alex Cuth­bert, lock Bradley Davies and flanker Dan Ly­di­ate, with skip­per Sam War­bur­ton switch­ing to his more fa­mil­iar open-side flanker role.

France head coach Guy Novès, mean­while, made five changes af­ter a 10-9 win against Ire­land, in­clud­ing a Test de­but for Stade Fran­cais wing Djib­ril Ca­mara as Les Bleus looked to end their bar­ren run in Cardiff.

Wales made a pur­pose­ful, fast start, dom­i­nat­ing ter­ri­tory and mov­ing ball through the hands with im­pres­sive fre­quency. France could not es­cape from their own half, and a lack of com­po­sure was un­der­lined when Plis­son kicked straight into touch from out­side his own 22.

Big­gar should have put Wales ahead af­ter nine min­utes, but he sent an an­gled penalty chance wide of the tar­get, and then Plis­son fol­lowed suit from longer range af­ter prop Rob Evans was pe­nalised for col­laps­ing a scrum.

The home side went ahead through a Big­gar penalty early in the se­cond quar­ter when France’s Paul Je­drasiak ap­peared to take out Welsh num­ber eight Taulupe Fale­tau off the ball, but ref­eree Wayne Barnes de­cided to take no fur­ther ac­tion.

France’s at­tack­ing game was re­stricted in so many ways, and Wales just had to be pa­tient as they strung to­gether sev­eral threat­en­ing pas­sages of play, util­is­ing cen­tre Jonathan Davies’ pow­er­ful mid­field run­ning and full-back Liam Wil­liams’ aerial ex­cel­lence.

Af­ter Big­gar and Plis­son traded penal­ties, Wales ended the half camped close to France’s line fol­low­ing an elec­tri­fy­ing Gareth Davies break that set up a se­ries of at­tack­ing scrums. But France sur­vived in­tense pres­sure, and they trooped off just three points adrift af­ter their op­po­nents had strug­gled to con­vert pres­sure into points.

Big­gar put Wales 9-3 ahead just three min­utes into the se­cond pe­riod fol­low­ing a dan­ger­ous Jonathan Danty tackle on Cuth­bert, al­though once again the home side were guilty of over-play­ing and leav­ing points on the pitch.

The open­ing try fi­nally ar­rived af­ter 46 min­utes, when a French at­tack broke down in mid­field. Davies kicked clev­erly into space and a sprint­ing North, who ini­tially mis-kicked when he at­tempted

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