Seven months may have passed since Wales’ last outing in the Six Nations but their wait for a victory continues, after losing their fourth Test in a row in this warm-up fixture against France in Paris.
Alun Wyn Jones’ record-tying 148th Test cap did not go as planned, despite Wales starting brightly with a Leigh Halfpenny try in the first minute. But a score from Cyril Baille and a brace from Antoine Dupont, as France’s attack began to fire, left Wales trailing 21-13 at the interval.
A dangerous ruck clear out on Jones by Bernard le Roux, the France lock, may well be examined by the citing commissioner after appearing to catch the Wales skipper with his forearm.
France captain Charles Ollivon and Wales prop Nicky Smith exchanged tries in the second half but three missed kicks off the boot of Dan Biggar meant that Wales were unable to close the gap on the scoreboard, a magnificent solo try from Teddy Thomas wrapping up the win for France, who face Ireland next weekend and can still win the Six Nations, tied for first place with England on 13 points.
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac could hardly have asked for a better start, with Halfpenny crossing after 58 seconds. Justin Tipuric’s pass was key, creating the overlap out wide before Dan Biggar put Halfpenny away. A penalty soon after from the Northampton Saints fly-half meant Wales had a handy 10-0 lead inside the first five minutes.
France however hit back well, Romain Ntamack and Dupont, the Toulouse half-back connection, conjuring an attack that saw Ntamack burst through into space, after Rhys Webb leapt out of the defensive line, before feeding Dupont. Josh Adams did well getting across to make a cover tackle, but France recycled and Baille, the French loosehead prop, powered over the line from close range.
Biggar added his second penalty not long after to extend Wales’ lead but looked in some discomfort throughout the opening quarter, getting some treatment on the touchline and doing his best to stay on the field, even with bigger matches to come over the next few weeks against Scotland in the Six Nations followed by the Autumn Nations Cup.
While Wales’ interior defence was initially solid, France cracked them open out wide with a sumptuous score, Ntamack finding Virimi Vakatawa who with an outrageous offload out the back of his hand freed Teddy Thomas down the touchline, with Dupont on hand to finish off a fine score. It summed up what this young France side are capable of at their best. Ntamack’s touchline conversion gave the hosts the lead for the first time in the match after half an hour.