Wales rumble on as French are dealt with in muted style
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