France 41-28 Wales: Five-try Les Bleus keep pressure on Ireland
France kept their Six Nations title hopes alive with a 41-28 victory over a spirited Wales at Stade de France.
Les Blues boosted their championship quest by earning a bonus point to displace Ireland at the summit of the table, and they will be crowned champions if the latter fail to beat England later on Saturday.
Damian Penaud scored twice while Jonathan Danty, Uini Atonio and Gael Fickou also crossed for the hosts, who claimed their 17th win in 18 Tests.
Meanwhile, George North, Bradley Roberts, Tomos Williams and Rio Dyer went over for the visitors but, despite the bonus point, they have now lost their last five meetings with France.
Wales had scored the fewest points in this year’s championship, but they made a purposeful start in Paris, as a lengthy spell of pressure culminated in North going under the posts in the eighth minute.
But France responded just two minutes later. Romain Ntamack embarked on a dangerous burst before offloading to Antoine Dupont, who found the unmarked Penaud for his 25th international try.
After Thomas Ramos kicked the hosts into the lead, they stretched their advantage in similar fashion six minutes before the break. This time, Danty was on his own to cross in the corner after his team-mates brilliantly worked the ball from left to right.
France built on their momentum by crossing twice within 10 minutes of the restart. A neat move culminated in Atonio's first international try, before Fickou rounded off a series of sharp passes that carved open the Wales defence.
The last six meetings between these sides in the Six Nations had been decided by five points or fewer, and Wales ensured a degree of respectability on the scoreline with Roberts and Williams cutting the deficit to 34-21.
Les Bleus thwarted any hopes of a dramatic turnaround as Penaud went over in the corner, yet the visitors had the final word with Dyer racing away in the dying moments.
The leading scorer in this year's Six Nations, Ramos was flawless with his right boot once more for France. The full-back was seven from seven as he kicked 16 points, taking his tally for the tournament to 84.
However, he narrowly missed out on breaking Jonny Wilkinson's record for points in a single campaign (89 in 2001).
North surpasses Williams
Despite the defeat, North managed to create history for Wales when he went over in the eighth minute.
The Ospreys centre has now scored the most tries for his country in Six Nations history (23), overtaking the great Shane Williams, while only Ireland’s Brian O'Driscoll (26) and Scotland's Ian Smith (24) have crossed more in the competition.
Taulupe Faletau also hit a significant milestone, the number eight becoming only the eighth player to earn 100 caps for Wales, who finish the tournament in fifth place.
Key Opta Facts: More Paris misery for Wales
- France have now won each of their last four Six Nations matches against Wales after winning just one of eight against them previously (L7) – it is their longest ever winning run against Wales in the tournament.
- Today's game was decided by a margin of 13 points, after each of the last six meetings between France and Wales had all been decided by margins of just five or fewer – it was France's largest win against Wales since 2011 (28-9).
- Wales have now lost each of their last four final round fixtures in the Six Nations, as many times as in their previous 16 campaigns combined.
- Wales lost a Six Nations match after scoring four tries for the first time in their history – the last time they scored more points without winning a game was in their most recent trip to Paris, on the final day of the 2021 campaign (30-32).
- Penaud has scored two tries in back-to-back matches for the first time in his Test career – overall, he has scored five tries in this year's Six Nations, more than any other player.