Rugby: France proud and happy to deliver the final blow against Wales

PARIS (REUTERS) – Wales coach Wayne Pivac was left numb after his side were denied a Grand Slam as France snatched victory in one of the most exciting Five or Six Nations matches ever played on Saturday (March 20).

With 10 minutes remaining in Paris, Wales were leading by 10 points with France reduced to 14 men but then had two players sin-binned and were pegged back by a Charles Ollivon try.

Brice Dulin then scored another try in stoppage time to secure an astonishing 32-30 win that leaves both teams still in the hunt for the title but with Welsh Grand Slam hopes gone.

“It’s quite a numb feeling. The boys have put in such a fantastic effort,” Pivac told reporters. “It wasn’t to be…

“The players were so close and yet so far. It’s a tough time, but we have to be proud of the effort. To go from a Grand Slam to waiting for six days is frustrating. But there’s nothing we can do now but sit back and watch next week.”

Captain Alun Wyn Jones was equally frustrated by how a second Grand Slam in three years slipped away.

“I thought we were pretty good for 80 minutes – it was just those dying seconds,” he said.

“Our ill discipline brought pressure on. Credit to France for their last 15 but when we look back, it was our indiscipline as well as superb French play…

“We’re proud and privileged to be able to get on with the tournament and to win the Triple Crown. Hopefully we made people at home proud, but it is out of our hands now.”

Wales’ title hopes now depend on France not beating Scotland with a bonus point and by at least 21 points on Friday.

Should the French win by 20 points and collect a bonus point at the Stade de France, the championship would be decided on tries scored – Wales have 20 to France’s 15 so far.

Les Bleus, who are eyeing a first Six Nations title in 11 years, were hailed by coach Fabien Galthie, who said: “We knew the Welsh were very strong. They are good boxers. They box 12 rounds out of 12 usually but tonight they stopped boxing after 11 rounds.

“But we kept boxing, we kept punching.”

Added captain Ollivon: “We went for it. Nothing was given to us for free. We had to keep believing that we could score two tries in the finale despite being down to 14.

“We left everything on the pitch.”

France were lucky to be level at 17-17 by the interval after suffering in defence in the opening half.

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“They (Wales) played their best game of the championship. We struggled in defence but we changed that in the second half,” said Gael Fickou.

“Our defence was too wide, we were not quick enough,” admitted Galthie. “But in the second half, a new game started.”

He said lock Romain Taofifenua, who sprained his knee, and fly-half Matthieu Jalibert, who was taken out after receiving a blow to the head, were both fine. They are expected to be fit for the clash against Scotland.

“Now we have to come down to earth and keep a cool head to get ready for that game,” said winger Arthur Vincent. “We know it’s going to be a tricky test. Let’s take it step by step. First, focus on victory and then we’ll take it from there,” added Fickou.

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