Rugby – Wales seal record comeback win as France implode

Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - France v Wales - Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France - February 1, 2019. Wales celebrates scoring a try. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) – Battered, bruised and 16-0 down at halftime, Wales produced a record comeback to beat France 24-19 in a compelling opening Six Nations match played in driving rain on Friday.

Two tries by George North, one from Tomos Williams and the boots of Gareth Anscombe and Dan Biggar helped Wales overcome Les Bleus by achieving the biggest turnaround in Six Nations history.

Camille Lopez kicked nine points for France who scored first-half tries through forward Louis Picamoles and winger Yoann Huget whose embarrassing error gifted Wales a try.

“The difference between the two teams is that we forgot how to lose and on the other foot you have a team searching for confidence,” Wales coach Warren Gatland told a news conference after his team’s 10th win in a row.

France made a strong start, running hard at the Welsh defence and playing a quick-passing game to lead 16-0 at halftime.

They went ahead when Picamoles touched down after Les Bleus had worked through the phases inside Welsh territory.

But the hosts missed opportunities to increase the lead as Morgan Parra missed the conversion and a penalty.


Wales thought they had levelled but Liam Williams’s try after he sped through the defence was ruled out because he had knocked the ball on.

A brilliant Arthur Iturria offload set up Huget on the left flank and the winger sped down the line to dive over and reward France for their flair.

Parra missed the conversion before Anscombe failed with another penalty as the wet and windy conditions made kicking difficult.

Wales were under tremendous pressure and conceded a penalty which Lopez converted to extend the home side’s lead to 13-0 and Lopez added a 40-metre drop goal just before the interval.

Wales burst into life early in the second half, however, greatly helped by French errors.

Winger Josh Adams raced through the defensive line and set up Williams for a try which was converted by Anscombe.

The visitors closed the gap to two points behind when Huget fumbled a ball on the try line attempting to deal with a hopeful kick through and North pounced to touched down.

“It’s hard to explain. It had never happened to him and maybe it will never happen to him again. How can you explain this?,” France coach Jacques Brunel said.

There was then a sense of inevitability at the Stade de France.

Wales moved in front when Biggar slotted a penalty as France grew increasingly shaky but the hosts regained the lead through a Lopez penalty.

With the game on a knife-edge, France shot themselves in the foot again as North intercepted a poor Sebastien Vahaamahina pass to run unopposed to the line for his second try and Wales defended ferociously to close out the win.

France have only won one of their last eight games and they will head into next weekend’s clash against England at Twickenham low on confidence.

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