6N: France beats Wales 41-28, but loses the title to Ireland

March 18, 2023 GMT
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France's Damian Penaud scores a try during the Six Nations rugby union international match between France and Wales, at the Stade de France in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Saturday, March 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
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France's Damian Penaud scores a try during the Six Nations rugby union international match between France and Wales, at the Stade de France in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Saturday, March 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

PARIS (AP) — Defending champion France completed its Six Nations campaign by scoring five tries in an entertaining 41-28 win against Wales, but it wasn’t enough to retain the title as Ireland beat England 29-16 later Saturday to clinch a Grand Slam.

France got the attacking bonus point it needed to move one point ahead of Ireland before its game against England in Dublin. But Fabien Galthié’s side needed No. 1-ranked Ireland to lose without collecting a defensive bonus point.

Ireland beat France 32-19 last month — a result that ended France’s 14-game winning streak and also shifted the momentum Ireland’s way.

So there was no Grand Slam repeat for France, but a party atmosphere still prevailed on Saturday afternoon at Stade de France.

Fireworks went off after the game to celebrate another Six Nations where Galthié’s side showed an abundance of attacking flair and thrilled rugby fans with some spectacular tries.


“We’ve won 80% of our matches in the tournament over the past four years, I don’t think that’s ever happened in the history of French rugby,” said Galthié, ever the perfectionist. “But we must still improve our defending.”

Prolific right winger Damian Penaud grabbed two against the Welsh and fullback Tomas Ramos was perfect with his kicking as Les Tricolores took their tournament try tally to an eye-watering 21 — compared to 20 for Ireland.

“We can be proud of ourselves after this tournament, although we can have a lot of regrets about the match in Ireland,” star scrumhalf Antoine Dupont said. “We feel that our attacking potential is still growing.”

England was reeling from last weekend’s 53-10 win loss to No. 2-ranked France for its third heaviest defeat ever, but clearly wounded from that humiliation it played with great determination even with a player sent off late in the first half.

Wales started strongly and took three attacking lineouts over penalties, scoring off the third when scrumhalf Rhys Webb pinged a quick pass to center George North, who went over for a converted try.

It was North’s 23rd in the tournament’s history, taking him one ahead of former Wales winger Shane Williams and three behind all-time record holder Brian O’Driscoll of Ireland.

France’s response took just two minutes.


Flyhalf Romain Ntamack carved a hole in midfield with elusive running and offloaded to halves partner Dupont, who looped a clinical pass to Penaud on the right wing.

The Welsh came to play and it took France until the 26th minute to lead through Ramos’ penalty.

But with the recalled Uini Atonio dominant in the scrum, another penalty soon followed before France stretched the Welsh line with quick passes to allow Penaud to send center Jonathan Danty over on the right wing for a converted try and a 20-7 interval lead.

Atonio’s first try on his 50th test came four minutes after the restart, when he barged over the line after being set up by the quick-thinking Dupont and Ramos. Just five minutes later, France opened up Wales again and Danty freed Ntamack to feed center Gaël Fickou for France’s fourth try.


Wales’ bench finally ended France’s 34-point run when replacement hooker Bradley Roberts burrowed over from close range after flanker Justin Tipuric stole possession, and replacement scrumhalf Tomos Williams got Wales’s third try with Tipuric involved again.

Ramos set up Penaud’s second try in the right corner late on but both players went missing when Wales got a bonus point with a last-gasp fourth try from replacement winger Rio Dyer, converted by veteran Leigh Halfpenny.

“We knew Wales would be strong, people had a tendency to write them off a bit in this tournament,” Ntamack said. “But with the players they have and their experience we knew it wouldn’t be easy, and you saw that in the first few minutes.”

No. 8 Taulupe Faletau played his 100th Welsh test.

Wales won the tournament two years ago, but won only once this year — 29-17 in Rome last weekend. The Italians finished 0-5 for the wooden spoon after losing 26-14 in Scotland earlier Saturday.

France’s next objective is to win the World Cup for the first time. The three-time runner-up has a mouth-watering opener against three-time champion New Zealand at Stade de France on Sept. 8 — and the host could meet Ireland in a mouth-watering quarterfinal.


“Give us some time,” Galthié joked, not wanting to look too far ahead. “We have a night to finish, a morning to spend together, and then it will be time to say goodbye. Afterward, the next time we meet up will be to prepare for the World Cup.”

He parted with a warning shot.

“I hope teams fear us,” he said. “We’ve got an impressive ratio. We’ve lost once at Stade de France in four years.”

France is gaining confidence, but Wales is turning a page.

Wales coach Warren Gatland said before the game that up to eight of his players — including Faletau and lock Alun Wyn Jones — may have made their last Six Nations appearances as he builds for this World Cup and the next.


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