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Resurgent France ends Wales' grand slam dream

A TRY each by flanker Thierry Dusautoir and winger Cedric Heymans and three penalties from scrumhalf Morgan Parra gave resurgent France a 21-16 victory over Wales at the Stade de France near Paris on Friday.

Looking for a second successive Six Nations grand slam, Wales led for most of the first half after fullback Lee Byrne sped over for a try which flyhalf Stephen Jones converted to add to a penalty he scored after just two minutes.

The sharp Wales backline looked formidable at times but France, stung by criticism after a lackluster win over Scotland two weeks, ago fought back strongly and harried the visitors incessantly.

Stand-in kicker Parra scored a penalty and added a conversion when Dusautoir profited from a surging run by Imanol Harinordoquy to power over the line just before the break.

"We got them by the throat," said France captain Lionel Nallet. "We spent all week looking at the Scotland match where we didn't run at the line hard enough."

Roared on by the crowd, the Blues came out strongly after halftime, running powerfully and straight at Wales, and Heymans capped off a surging move with a try that was referred to the video referee before being confirmed.

Wales nearly got back into the match, launching waves of attacks on the French line with just minutes to go, but it was held back by a desperate but disciplined defense in the first Friday evening match ever played in the Six Nations.

France coach Marc Lievremont gambled by going into the game without a recognized goal kicker or fly-half.

Hit by injuries and lack of preparation time after club matches last weekend, he faced heavy media criticism but came up smiling.

"It may have been a small miracle but whatever, it's a quite an exploit to beat a Welsh team that is still magnificent and we needed the whole team to put in a great performance," he said.

The win lifted France back into title contention beside Wales and Ireland, the only unbeaten side. Ireland, which hasn't won the title since 1985, was hosting England yesterday. It hasn't achieved a grand slam since 1948.


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