Late Six Nations onslaught sees France overturn Wales

Late Six Nations onslaught sees France overturn Wales

France claimed a 45-24 Guinness Six Nations victory at the Principality Stadium to send Wales into a wooden spoon decider with Italy. 

A fourth successive loss of the Six Nations campaign means Warren Gatland's team could finish bottom for the first time since 2003.

Italy, buoyed by a stunning success against Scotland, know that if they repeat their Cardiff win of two years ago next Saturday then Wales will prop up the final table.

Head coach Gatland has pleaded for patience as he moulds a new-look side following the World Cup, but France showed just how big the rebuilding job is as they triumphed in bonus-point fashion following tries from Gael Fickou, Nolann Le Garrec, Georges-Henri Colombe, Romain Taofifenua and Maxime Lucu.

Fly-half Tomas Ramos kicked 20 points from four penalties and four conversions, while Wales responded through touchdowns for Rio Dyer, Tomos Williams and Joe Roberts, with Sam Costelow adding three conversions and a penalty.

Wales led by a point inside the closing quarter, but they have now lost 13 of their last 15 Six Nations games, and it is 21 years since Gatland's fellow New Zealander Steve Hansen oversaw a campaign when they failed to win a match.

But that scenario could now unfold, with Italy appearing in stronger shape than Wales after beating Scotland and drawing with France, who finish their Six Nations season against England in Lyon next weekend.

Wales were dealt a late injury blow when hooker Ryan Elias withdrew due to hamstring tightness, so Elliot Dee won his 50th cap in the starting line-up and Test rookie Evan Lloyd featured among the replacements.

Costelow kicked Wales into a third-minute lead, and although that was immediately cancelled out by a Ramos penalty, France's defence was quickly cut open.

Wales attacked impressively, with Dee and lock Will Rowlands prominent, but no-one tracked Dyer and he sprinted 35 metres unopposed to touch down, before Costelow's conversion opened up a 10-3 lead.

There was an immediate concern for Wales, though, when the game's first scrum saw the Welsh front-row mangled into a horrible shape and Ramos kicked an easy penalty.

It gave France momentum, and they stung Wales midway through the opening half after consistent phase-play afforded Fickou a chance, and he brushed off Costelow's weak challenge to cross wide out, with Ramos converting.

But any chance of France consolidating their advantage was quickly undone when centre Owen Watkin's half-break exposed Ramos in defence and Williams claimed another opportunist score, again converted by Costelow.

The rollercoaster contest had no obvious pattern, and Fickou set up a second French try 10 minutes before half-time when his strong carrying was rewarded by Le Garrec's finish. Ramos' conversion meant that France led 20-17.

Wales counter-attacked as the half drew to a close, but they could only reflect on what might have been after Aaron Wainwright dropped Williams' pass when the French defence was again stretched.

The try spree continued shortly after half-time, with Wales moving back in front following strong approach work by Costelow and Williams that created an opening for Roberts to score. Costelow's touchline conversion left France four points behind.

The visitors looked to have gone back in front following a sustained spell of pressure, but lock Thibaud Flament was adjudged to have dropped the ball as he tried to touch down and Wales escaped after referee Luke Pearce had originally awarded the score.

A Ramos penalty made it a one-point game entering the final quarter and Wales found themselves under prolonged pressure before cracking 15 minutes from time as Colombe crashed over and Ramos converted.

It got worse for Wales as Taofifenua charged down Gareth Davies' attempted clearance to secure a bonus-point triumph and there was no way back for the home side as Lucu's late score compounded their misery.

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