Wales stop the rot in Paris
February 9, 2013
Wales' George North is tackled by the France defence
© PA Photos
Wales snapped an eight-Test losing streak with a hard-earned 16-6 victory over France at the Stade de France in Paris.
Match Analysis by ESPNscrum
The game appeared to be ambling towards a draw after rival goalkickers Frederic Michalak and Leigh Halfpenny each kicked two penalties, but Wales wing George North touched down seven minutes from time after gathering fly-half Dan Biggar's kick to propel his side to their first win in Paris since 2005.
Halfpenny kicked the touchline conversion and then slotted another penalty as Wales ended their run of eight successive defeats and left pre-tournament favourites France still without a point in this season's competition.
Reigning champions Wales were without injured captain Sam Warburton as they aimed to revive their RBS 6 Nations campaign at Stade de France.
Ryan Jones skippered Wales in the absence of Warburton, who was sidelined with a shoulder problem, while flanker Justin Tipuric and hooker Richard Hibbard were also called up following last Saturday's 30-22 home defeat against Ireland.
France, beaten by Italy in Rome six days ago, showed two changes from that game, with juggernaut centre Mathieu Bastareaud handed a start and Toulon lock Jocelino Suta replacing an injured Pascal Pape.
Wales centre Jamie Roberts, meanwhile, won his 50th cap, as the visitors targeted only a fourth victory in Paris since 1975.
Wales made a bright opening, with scrum-half Mike Phillips and No.8 Toby Faletau both running strongly inside the French 22 as Les Bleus found themselves in sustained defensive mode.
After a nightmare first 20 minutes against Ireland, Wales appeared far more cohesive and organised than a week ago, and France only got out of their own half when referee George Clancy awarded them a penalty that Frederic Michalak rifled into touch.
But France did not require a second invitation to move ahead as Michalak accepted their first scoring chance with a 45 metre penalty that left Wales trailing 3-0.
The visitors, though, responded in determined fashion, returning to within sight of France's line before a short-range Halfpenny penalty equalised Michalak's strike.
France pieced together some attacking phases inside the Wales half, with wing Benjamin Fall and centre Maxime Mermoz prominent, but Wales impressively kept their defensive shape to thwart any danger.
Fly-half Dan Biggar mixed his game well for the visitors, kicking cleverly behind the French defence when Wales had possession, but France looked more of a try-scoring threat, either via Mermoz's guile or Bastareaud's power.
Bath prop Paul James went on for a bloodied Gethin Jenkins as half-time approached, and a 3-3 scoreline reflected an opening 40 minutes high on endeavour but low on quality.
Defences continued to dominate as the clock ticked down, with both teams lacking an attacking thrust in the opposition's 22.
But Biggar then kicked superbly behind the French defence, and wing George North caught the ball before diving over in the corner.
Halfpenny kicked the touchline conversion, and Wales' run of sight successive defeats was at an end as they beat France for the first time in Paris since 2005, with Halfpenny's late penalty sealing the deal.
France's Frederic Michalak looks to squeeze through a gap © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
In the wake of another perfect November series, Monday Maul talks to NZRU CEO Steve Tew about the constant demand for perfection
The latest Week in Pictures takes in all the action from the weekend when rugby united behind Samoa
The Wallabies showed flair in Dublin, but they still have a way to go if they are to do more than make up the numbers at the World Cup, writes Greg Growden
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton