Six Nations 2017: France 20-18 Wales

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Leigh Halfpenny kicks for goal in Paris
Leigh Halfpenny kicks for goal in Paris

France snatched a dramatic and controversial Six Nations win over Wales in an extraordinary encounter.

Trailing by five points with the clock ticking past 100 minutes, Damien Chouly drove over from close range and Camille Lopez’s conversion clinched the win.

Leigh Halfpenny had kicked six penalties – three from 50 metres-plus – to cancel Remi Lamerat’s early try.

But the match will live long in the memory for the 20-minute added-time barrage on the Wales line.

Referee Wayne Barnes issued a yellow card to Samson Lee in the 82nd minute and had to deal with a claim of biting on Wales wing George North in the face of a tumultuous home crowd at the Stade de France.

The television match official Peter Fitzgibbon could not find any clear footage so the game was allowed to continue.

Barnes also allowed France to replace tight-head prop Uini Atonio with Rabah Slimani who had earlier been replaced, with the France team doctor insisting Atonio needed a head injury assessment.

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Lee had returned to bring Wales back up to 15 men before Chouly claimed the decisive score after a series of penalties near the Wales line.

It was a remarkable end to a difficult Six Nations campaign for Wales which sees them finish fifth and with three defeats for the first time since 2010.

France moved onto 14 points and second place before Ireland denied England a Grand Slam in Dublin to finish second behind the visitors.

Rob Howley’s Wales finished one place above winless Italy after securing two tournament triumphs – against Italy and Ireland – and following defeats by England and Scotland.

The incredible finale followed what had been a low-key match until the 77th minute, with French indiscipline allowing the immaculate Halfpenny to wipe out an early 10-point deficit with a flawless display of place-kicking.

But Wales rarely threatened the French line, and struggled throughout at the scrum.

Warburton’s kick to regret?

They were also hampered by injuries to second rows Alun Wyn Jones and Jake Ball, with Taulupe Faletau pressed into duty in the boiler house and replacement hooker Scott Baldwin playing in the back row.

For their part, France’s forward dominance eventually paid dividends with the immaculate Louis Picamoles and Kevin Gourdon carrying powerfully.

And Wales flanker Sam Warburton will no doubt regret the rush of blood to the head which saw him kicking the ball long downfield after turning over possession during a France attack.

The ball went from Wales’ 10-metre line and over the French dead-ball line – allowing the home team to set up the bridgehead which eventually led to their winning score.

Flying start

France started brilliantly and were ahead within seven minutes when Lopez chipped the ball over the onrushing defence for Lamerat to beat his team-mate Gael Fickou to the ball and touch down.

Lopez increased the lead to 10 points before referee Barnes intervened to send Virimi Vakatawa to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock on.

Halfpenny’s angled penalty calmed Wales nerves and by half-time the full-back had struck twice more – one from more than 50 metres – and the French were left wondering how their dominance had resulted in just a one-point interval lead.

After the break Halfpenny drilled two long-range kicks to give Wales a five point lead, which he then restored after Lopez kicked one of his own.

But that was before arguably the most thrilling, nerve-shredding, energy-sapping finish in the tournament’s history.

France: Dulin; Nakaitaci, Lamerat, Fickou, Vakatawa; Lopez, Serin; Baille, Guirado, Slimani; Vahaamahina, Maestri; Sanconnie, Gourdon, Picamoles.

Replacements: Chat, Atonio, Ben Arous, Le Devedec, Chouly, Dupont, Trinh-Duc, Huget.

Wales: Halfpenny; North, Davies, S Williams, L Williams; Biggar, Webb; Evans, Owens, Francis, Ball, Wyn Jones, Warburton, Tipuric, Moriarty.

Replacements: Baldwin, Smith, Lee, Charteris, Faletau, G Davies, S Davies, Roberts.

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MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Touch judges: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand) and Matthew Carley (England)

TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)