It takes a special effort to deny France from scoring a try in Paris, but the effort that Wales put in their second match of the 2013 Six Nations championship, culminating with a big try from George North to snatch away the victory, was enough for a historic result.
It’s been almost 8 years since the last time Wales beat France in Paris, but sometimes when playing not to win for 70 minutes, you create the best opportunities from victory. Heading into the match after 8 consecutive defeats, taking them back to their final win of the Grand Slam from last year, Wales came in for a trench battle; grass and mud. The physical hesitancy they showed in the first half against the Irish wasn’t there. Adam and Ryan Jones put in a huge effort, and everyone followed, even without Sam Warburton in the lineup.
Leigh Halfpenny, Mike Philips and Dan Biggar didn’t have too many opportunities to show their skills, but this wasn’t a match of skill. It was about heart and frustrating the French, putting in another flat display, while Frederic Michalak couldn’t spread the ball and make the right decisions to push his team forward, and the inspiration needed from Thierry Dusautoir and the inclusion of Mathieu Bastareaud in the lineup simply didn’t have the necessary effect. Wesley Fofana, the danger-man for France, was halted time and time again, including a few huge tackles from Toby Faletau, in a much better performance when you compare it with last week.
Leigh Halfpenny had a brilliant day with his leg, including a conversion from a very tough angle to put Wales 13-6 up late in the second half and another huge kick from 48 meters to put the final stamp on a very impressive win, that gets North and Halfpenny on the scoresheet as the main men deserving credit, but a performance that displays huge character instead of talent, with the Jones’, Gareth Jenkins and Toby Faletau putting in a huge effort.
France? Two losses to open the tournament, not something that usually happens, drew a lot of boos for a team that keeps going backwards since reaching the final of the World Cup in 2011, proving to everyone that their huge win against Australia in November was a one time affair, and those suggesting a certain crisis in French Rugby aren’t far off from the truth.