6N: 14-man France wins late and denies Wales Grand Slam
PARIS (AP) — Fullback Brice Dulin scored a try from the last attack of an astonishing match for France to beat Wales 32-30 and deny the visitor a Grand Slam on Saturday while keeping alive their hopes of claiming the Six Nations title.
Wales, down to 13 men, led by 10 points with three minutes to go against France, which was down to 14 men. Then France captain Charles Ollivon went over for a converted try to trail by just three.
France kept the heat on, receiving a penalty in the last minute of regulation time. It marched 60 meters down the field with several intense phases and freed up an unmarked Dulin on the left for a match-winner in the 82nd minute in an empty Stade de France.
“What an incredible scenario. This team believed in their lucky star,” an emotional France coach Fabien Galthie said. ”The players believe in themselves, they know how much those fans in front of their televisions support them.”
For Wales, it was agony, missing out on a record-tying 13th Grand Slam. It still leads the championship, but the title will be decided in Paris next Friday when France faces Scotland in a match that was postponed last month.
“I thought we were pretty good for 80 minutes but it was just those dying seconds,” Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones said. “Our ill discipline brought a lot of pressure on.”
To win a first Six Nations title in 11 years, France needs another bonus-point win and hope its enough to beat Wales on points difference.
The most experienced Wales side ever, with nearly 1,000 caps, was handling the pre-tournament favorite comfortably in scoring three tries with perfection off the tee from flyhalf Dan Biggar. But under sustained pressure, Wales No. 8 Taulupe Faletau and fullback Liam Williams were sin-binned with eight minutes to go.
France had gone down a man only moments before when lock Paul Willemse was sent off for eye-gouging prop Wyn Jones.
But inspired by Ollivon, the French stayed focused and broke Wales in dramatic fashion.
A frantic first half saw France lead twice, lose two key players to injury, trail 17-14, then level at 17-17.
Just after Romain Taofifenua’s opening try, Wales had a try ruled out when Ollivon slid his arms under scrumhalf Gareth Davies as he was grounding the ball. But one minute later, Biggar charged over and converted.
France perked up when Dulin and flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert set up a try for star scrumhalf Antoine Dupont and 14-7.
Back came Wales again when flanker Josh Navidi barged over off with Biggar slotting the extras and a penalty.
In a bruising half, Taofifenua was replaced by Swan Rebbadj because of a knee injury, and a dazed Jalibert gave way to Romain Ntamack after his jaw hit a forearm.
Ntamack equalized with a penalty six minutes before the break.
Wales camped in the French half from the restart and, after several phases playing advantage led to nothing, Biggar’s penalty made it 20-17.
Momentum was with the visitors. Wing Josh Adams chased flanker Justin Tipuric’s kick, took an offload from replacement scrumhalf Tomos Williams and dived over. But it needed confirmation after forensic examination by referee Luke Pearce and TMO Wayne Barnes, who had a busy night with tries and no tries and foul play.
Wales’ 10-point lead was cut to 27-20 thanks to another Ntamack penalty, keeping France in victory — and title — contention with 25 minutes to play.
Pearce gave Wales another try just before the hour when winger Louis Rees-Zammit spectacularly dived into the right corner, but Barnes ruled he’d grounded the ball on the touchline thanks to a push from Dupont.
After France prop Mohamed Haouas was sin-binned and Biggar kicked a penalty for 30-20, Wales had to retain control for only 10 more minutes.
But France showed late-game grit it has lacked recently. Hooker Julien Marchand bulldozed through three Welsh defenders on the tryline, but the TMO couldn't confirm a grounding.
Center Gael Fickou also went close and then Dulin squirmed over. But the TMO spotted Paul Willemse making contact with the left eye of Wales prop Wyn Jones. Willemse was sent off and the try disallowed
Instead of mentally breaking France, the home side was fired up even more.
“We made mistakes, we got cards," Fickou said. “But we didn't give up when it was 14 against 15.”
The irrepressible Ollivon almost scored on the left and France received more help when Faletau and Williams were sin-binned as Pearce tired of Wales' repeat infringing under pressure.
Wales’ Grand Slam hopes followed them off the field.
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