By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - France bathed in pride and joy on Saturday after beating Wales 32-30 to stay on course for a first Six Nations title in 11 years at the end of an exhilarating test that coach Fabien Galthie compared to a boxing match.
France's win also denied Wales a second Grand Slam in three years with Les Bleus now hoping to beat Scotland by at least 21 points with a bonus point to secure the title in Paris on Friday in their rescheduled game.
Even though that will be a tough ask, France can at least celebrate being on the right side of a tight contest after a 23-20 defeat against England at Twickenham last Saturday.
To achieve that, they dug deep and kept believing in their chances despite being down to 14 men after Paul Willemse was sent off for eye gouging.
"We knew the Welsh were very strong. They are good boxers. They box 12 rounds out of 12 usually but tonight they stopped boxing after 11 rounds," Galthie told a news conference.
"But we kept boxing, we kept punching."
France had three tries ruled out by the TMO in the finale but Charles Ollivon powered through to reduce the arrears after back-to-back yellow cards left Wales with 13 men on the field.
Romain Ntamack converted and Brice Dulin dived over two minutes into dead time after Gael Fickou and Arthur Vincent's neat passing, despite the intense pressure, had overstretched the Welsh defence.
"We went for it. Nothing was given to us for free. We had to keep believing that we could score two tries in the finale despite being down to 14," said captain Ollivon.
"We left everything on the pitch."
France were lucky to be level at 17-17 by the interval after suffering in defence in the opening half.
"They (Wales) played their best game of the championship. We struggled in defence but we changed that in the second half," said Fickou.
"Our defence was too wide, we were not quick enough," added Galthie. "But in the second half a new game started."
He said lock Romain Taofifenua, who sprained his knee, and flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert, who was taken out after receiving a blow to the head, were both fine.
They are expected to be fit for Friday's decisive clash against Scotland at the Stade de France.
"Now we have to come down to earth and keep a cool head to get ready for that game," said winger Vincent.
"We know it's going to be a tricky test. Let's take it step by step. First, focus on victory and then we'll take it from there," added Fickou.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)