France carried on their Six Nations momentum with a nail-biting 27-23 victory over Wales on Saturday that kept alive their Grand Slam hopes.
Fabien Galthie’s team consolidated their place atop the championship table having kicked off their campaign with victories over England (24-17) and Italy (35-22), and now play Scotland away next up before rounding off their campaign at home against Ireland.
Wales blanked Italy (42-0) before falling to Ireland (24-14) and the result sees them battling to salvage some pride in their remaining two fixtures against England and Scotland.
AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from France’s thrilling victory at the Principality Stadium:
The build-up to the match was full of Welsh accusations that France would employ illegal tactics at the scrum.
English referee Matthew Carley, in just his second Six Nations match, certainly had his work cut out in Cardiff, with the key moment coming in the final moments.
Wales had camped out in the French 22m area, seizing the upper hand with France tighthead prop Mohamed Haouas sin-binned for collapsing.
On trundled prop replacement Demba Bamba, at just 21, for his first scrum. The two packs set and on the feed, Bamba subsequently won a penalty for France.
Wales coach Wayne Pivac accused Bamba of going “straight across in the scrum and (he) got rewarded for that”.
“You need to watch the game and review it to think about that,” responded France team manager, and 98-times capped hooker, Raphael Ibanez.
Ntamack’s ‘bunch of mates’
“We’re a bunch of mates, and I think that shows on the park,” was man-of-the-match Romain Ntamack’s reaction to France’s performance.
Ntamack scored a vital intercept try and also booted 12 points against a Wales team boasting a Six Nations record of 859 caps.
“We play with our heart, our guts, even if we’re not dripping with experience,” said Ntamack, whose father Emile became an iconic figure in French rugby during his 1995-2003 career as an explosive runner.
“We could have been overwhelmed by the setting, the stadium but in the end we didn’t care less about it, we just wanted to play and show we were capable of being the measure of the Welsh, that we could do it and I think we showed that throughout the match.”
Pig’s nod to Dupont
France scrum-half Antoine Dupont has, arguably, been the stand-out player of the championship this season, combining perfectly with Toulouse clubmate Ntamack at halfback.
And he showed his class again in Cardiff, proving to be a real terrier in a blitz defence, laying out Leigh Halfpenny with one memorable tackle.
A master at haranguing the pack in front of him, he also showcased a full array of out-of-hand kicking.
Traditionally, a Welsh butcher in Cardiff’s indoor market ‘names’ three pigs’ heads as the frontrow of a visiting side. Ahead of this match, it was prescient that Dupont’s name featured, such was his all-round impact.
“It’s not the way he plays with the ball, it’s everything else,” ex-France flanker Serge Betsen said in Cardiff. “The rest of the team follow.”
Source: AFP NEWS