Alun Wyn Jones’s record-equalling night in Paris ended with a fourth straight Wales defeat as his team paid the price for a poor defensive display.
The captain matched Richie McCaw’s caps record of 148 at an empty Stade de France, but he took a nasty first-half cheap shot from Bernard Le Roux which went unpunished. With a full 15 on the field, France scored three first-half tries, with two from Antoine Dupont – the man of the match – and one from Cyril Baille. Romain Ntamack added three conversions.
Leigh Halfpenny had given Wales a first-minute try but his team’s defence was porous as it was in the Six Nations at the start of the year and it proved costly. Ntamack’s boot and tries from Charles Ollivon and Teddy Thomas secured France’s win in the second half and despite a late consolation from Nicky Smith, Wales were well beaten.
Wales were ahead with just 58 seconds gone. Gregory Alldritt dropped Biggar’s kick-off and the ball went into touch. From the lineout, Justin Tipuric and Dan Biggar sent Halfpenny into the corner with less than a minute played. Biggar converted and added a penalty before brushing off an injury scare when he chased a kick to touch and pulled up. France had started awfully, but they soon woke up.
Ntamack steamed through a gap and found half-back partner Dupont in support. Josh Adams stopped Les Bleus short of the line, but a quick tap saw prop Baille burrow over. Ntamack converted with Biggar responding with three points.
Biggar clearly seemed far from 100% but on he ploughed. The Wales fly-half is the ultimate competitor, but he wasn’t helped by his team’s lineout not firing on all cylinders.
France produced two more impressive tries before the break, but they were helped by poor Welsh defence. First, Ntamack and Virimi Vakatawa led the charge sending Thomas flying down the wing. Again Dupont was in support and this time he scored. Ntamack converted to put his team ahead for the first time.
There was still time before the break for Tipuric to unnecessarily steam out of the line leaving Vakatawa with a huge gap to run into. Dupont was the beneficiary with a simple finish. Ntamack converted.
Biggar kicked a penalty at the start of the second half, but Grégory Alldritt should have had a fourth French try when he dropped a sitter with the line gaping.
Ntamack provided some consolation with his first three-point effort and Biggar turned down a response in favour of the corner as James Davies entered the fray on the flank.
Wales’s decision making seemed off. On a windy night, they should arguably have kicked more and when the ball looked on to run, it was then that they put boot to ball.
Gareth Davies and debutant Sam Parry also came on as Biggar missed his first kick at goal. Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit also came on for his first taste of international rugby and Biggar was again awry from the tee. The missed six points was costly to say the least.
France put the game out of touch with a breakaway try. That man Dupont was again at the heart of things with Ollivon the man to break clear and score. Ntamack converted and that was that despite Rhys Patchell replacing Biggar late on
The replacement prop Smith did grab one back but Thomas scored out of nowhere with a brilliant chip and chase and Ntamack rubbed salt in Welsh wounds from the touchline.
Wales now have a lot to prove when they face Scotland in their final Six Nations fixture in Llanelli.