By Paul Morgan, editor of Rugby World
I know it is the 100th anniversary of France’s entry into the Championship but did Wales’ really have to give them two birthday presents so they could win this match…surely one should be enough.
Those two presents came in the shape of two tries in the first half, James Hook being intercepted by Alexis Palisson in the sixth minute and Shane Williams repeating the trick, this time to gift Trinh-Duc a score after 40 minutes. They gifted France this game and I would imagine Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards will be spitting blood after this performances.
Those presents were of course caused in part by France’s suffocating defence in the first 40 minutes, but England will be buoyed by the way France ran out of steam in the second half and were suddenly not coming off the line so quickly and were not putting in the big hits. They clearly don’t have the fitness to keep that level of defensive performance – masterminded by Englishman Dave Ellis – up for 80 minutes.
In addition to the two first-half tries that took France 20-0 ahead the Welsh error count soared, well past 25 – far too many of any international side to incur if they hoped to win.
Wales should be commended by the way they roared back in the second half and the door was open midway through the half when Morgan Parra was sin-binned for slapping the ball down, with the score at 13-20.
Wales had one or two chances to draw level but weren’t clincial enough and Shane Williams’ sensational try was too little too late, but it was a magnificent score the same!
Stephen Jones had another accomplished display at outside-half and if only Wales could have got the ball in the hands of their flying wings – Shane Williams and Leigh Halfpenny – more often they would have been home and hosed. But in reality the French defence stopped them and when Wales switched tactics in the second half, grinding it through the middle, finding the wings was even harder.
Wales should be commended for their performance as they were missing a number of players including Gethin Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones and Mike Phillips, and they know they are building a good side ahead of the World Cup.
But you’ll beat no one if you only play for 40 minutes.
What a cracking game though so don’t let England and Italy convince you kicking is the future – it isn’t!
My man of the Match: Bradley Davies