France snatch win over Wales with bizarre late drama
Damien Chouly scored the decisive try in the 100th minute in a farcical finish as France’s long wait for a win over Wales dramatically came to an end with a 20-18 victory at Stade de France in their final match of the Six Nations.
France came out firing on all cylinders in Paris looking to end the tournament on a high note by claiming a first win over Wales since the 2011 World Cup semi-final and they soon opened up a 10-0 lead.
Remi Lamerat crossed for the opening try in a breathless start, but Wales weathered the storm and were only 10-9 down at the break with Leigh Halfpenny scoring all the points from the tee.
Wales suffered a big blow when they lost captain Alun Wyn Jones, making his 100th start for his country, and Jake Ball early in the second half but Rob Howley’s men were heroic in defence and another three Halfpenny penalties put them 18-13 up.
But it was all hands to the pump for the visitors men as they attempted to withstand 20 minutes of added time. Samson Lee was sent to the sin bin in the 82nd minute by referee Wayne Barnes, who had to check with the TMO to dismiss a claim that Wales wing George North had been bitten.
Barnes awarded France numerous penalties close to the Wales line and, with the clock ticking over to 100 minutes, Chouly barged over to level before Camille Lopez raised the roof by scoring the winning conversion to move Les Blues up to second ahead of Ireland’s clash with England.
France made a blistering start and Lopez’s early penalty dropped short before he dinked over the top for centre Lamarat, who grasped the ball and touched down for a richly deserved try after just six minutes.
Lopez made it 10-0 to rampant France after Wales where punished when a scrum went down, but Virimi Vakatawa was yellow-carded midway through the first half for a deliberate knock on when he got his hand in the way of Dan Biggar’s pass to George North.
North would surely have scored but for that intervention, Wales instead having to settle for two Leigh Halfpenny penalties while Vakatawa was in the bin.
After an early onslaught, Wales came into the game and would have been relieved to be just a point down at half-time after Halfpenny was given the simple task of slotting over for a third three-pointer.
France ramped up the pressure after the break, but had no points to show for it and Halfpenny expertly slotted over a penalty just in from the right touchline to put Wales in front for the first time at 12-9.
That Halfpenny effort came after skipper Jones and Ball picked up injuries, forcing Howley to employ hooker Scott Baldwin in the second row.
Whistles from the crowd grew louder as Halfpenny scored another two penalties either side of one from Lopez to put Wales 18-13 to the good with nine minutes to play.
It was nowhere near finished yet, though, with Tomas Francis coming back on to contest a scrum after Barnes checked if he had been replaced or injured following Ball’s yellow card before North claimed to have been bitten, with no evidence to prove it.
A France winner seemed inevitable and so it proved when Chouly finally went over and Lopez made no mistake with a simple conversion in a bizarre end.
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