Edwards' defence sticks for 80 minutes as France's replacements step up to shut down Wales in the final two minutes

Edwards' defence sticks for 80 minutes as France's replacements step up to shut down Wales in the final two minutes

There was a lot to debate and admire about France's fantastic 27-23 victory over Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday as Romain Ntamack guided France to victory that brought an end to a 10-year drought in Wales' capital.

Heading into the game, Shaun Edward's impact on France's attack in such a short period of time was widely praised but many questioned whether they would be able to sustain the no-nonsense 53-year-old's taxing manner in which he requires his side's to defend.


These concerns were not unfounded as France shipped two tries after the hour mark against Italy in round two, with all of England's 17 points also coming in the second half in the opening round of the competition. Not to mention France's two recent meetings against Wales in which they surrendered double-digit leads to fall to Wales in both the Six Nations and Rugby World Cup respectively.

Wales did manage to grab two second-half tries against France but they were nearly 30 minutes apart and were wedged in between a try from Romain Ntamack and yellow card to Mohamed Haouas. But it was the final two minutes of the game where France really showed their grit and determination to grind out a win - something that has not been synonymous with French sides recently.

While you here, watch: Omar Mouneimne's Analysis of Ireland's attack against England's defence


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It all starts from the miss conversion from reserve flyhalf Mathieu Jalibert that gives Wales the 22 drop out. Dan Biggar weights a lovely kick out to the touchline that Tomos Williams manages to slap back, an error from Wales gives France possession with Baptiste Serin putting in a little kick into the 22 knowing that he just has to get the ball into touch, it doesn't matter how far into the Wales 22 it is.

What Serin does really well is chasing the kick and preventing Halfpenny from taking it quickly as he is the quickest to block the passing lanes despite being the man who kicked it.

Serin's work is far from over as he takes up the position in front over the lineout and hassles Wales' hooker Ryan Elias to take the throw from the mark even though it is further forward. This eats up a good 10 seconds of the clock, 10 seconds that becomes incredibly important later on in the play.

Wales get the ball quickly into Hadleigh Parkes' hands with a really well worked and drilled lineout move and although he makes good metres with his carry, France nullify its effect as they slow the ball down with the choke tackle and compete at the breakdown.

It takes a good number of France's defensive efforts to bring Parkes down but the hit from Vakatawa and Gros slows him down, with Gros rolling slowly out of the ruck.

Gros is slow to get out of the ruck and could possibly be penalised for not moving away quick enough but he has done his job along with Dylan Cretin who competes for the ball and ultimately slows the attack down.

Once Williams is eventually able to the get the ball out France have their entire left-hand side of the pitch covered defensively and are able to shoot up and make up for the shortage of numbers, creating a slight overlap for Wales.

Edwards has nominated Gael Fickou as the captain of his defensive system and although he was playing out of position on the wing, he makes an excellent call in the next play that stops Halfpenny from putting McNicholl away.

Slick hands see Halfpenny get a chance to put McNicholl through but Fickou does well not to bite in on the fullback and buys time for Jalibert to shift out after shooting up on Tompkins to make the tackle on Halfpenny. That half a second is enough for Jalibert to make the hit on Halfpenny and the chance is gone as Halfpenny knows McNicholl would be taken into touch.

The tackle isn't a great one from Jalibert but it gets Halfpenny down and Willemse and Gros pile into the ruck.

Again they slow Welsh ball down with referee Matthew Carley telling Willemse three times that the ball is lost. Willemse and Gros disrupting Wales at the ruck draws Williams into the rucking forcing McNicholl to fill in at scrum and pass out to Biggar.

Biggar receives the ball standing still and ships it on only for Cretin to make a good hit with Chat lending his weight and drawing extra Welsh attackers to clear him out.

Once, again this allows the French defence to fold and on the next phase, it is a 6v6 with McNicholl running loop behind the decoy runners.

France know that Wales want to spread it from here and ignore the decoy runners and Vaktawa makes the first shot on Parkes to slow him down as Serin takes him to ground.

France hassle them at the ruck with but Williams spots that there is something on the short side and gets it to Tipuric who puts Moriarty into space.

Serin spots what Williams has and races back to make the hit on Moriarty, the scrumhalf once again making a good impact and read on defence.

Rob Evans dives on the ball and although France pile into the ruck to slow the ball down Williams burrows in to speed up the game and gets it out to Biggar. 

Biggar generates quick ball with a short pod before throwing an excellent pass out to Tompkins with this play catching France off guard as they had few numbers on their feet and ready to play.

They look to drift and Tompkins beats Alldritt on the inside.

This is where those precious 10 seconds come into play as Tompkins makes the initial break with 19 seconds left to play.

Once Tompkins is dragged to the ground, there are 10 seconds left on the clock and Camille Chat has emptied the tank to catch up with play and get over the ball to win the penalty.

If there had been an extra 10 seconds in the game, France may have been forced to take the lineout and there is always the risk of a turnover, a skewed threw or even a knock on, giving Wales another shot.

Chat has done incredibly well and his work rate will not go unnoticed by Shaun Edwards as he chased down the play starting behind Tomos Williams when Tompkins broke the line.

While Chat did incredibly well to chase down the play, Mathieu Jalibert bought his replacement hooker just enough time to get over the ball and force the penalty.

He runs an obstructing line into Williams, taking the scrumhalf out of the game for just enough to allow France to secure a penalty.

France may have got the better of a few 50/50 calls during the hard-fought encounter, particularly in these final two minutes, but the swift change in work ethic, grit and determination of Fabien Galthie's side compared to recent French performances is certainly admirable.

Far too often we have seen French sides concede in situations like this and ultimately losing games but if this young French outfit hopes to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup, on home soil, or even a Grand Slam this year they may just need a few more of these closely won tests along the way.



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