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Wales, France struggle to outlast plucky rivals

WALES stayed on course for a successful defense of its Six Nations title despite a hugely improved showing by England with a 23-15 win that took it to the top of the table.

While France beat Scotland 22-13 in Paris for its first win this season, Wales took advantage of the indiscipline that led to two yellow cards for England to clinch victory despite being outscored two tries to one.

"We were in the game despite the penalties and the sinbinnings," said England manager Martin Johnson, who had never previously lost at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, in a career in which he captained his country to the World Cup. "There were opportunities out there for us to win the test match so it was disappointing we didn't take them."

England showed more attacking intent than in its laborious opening victory over Italy and trailed by just a point at halftime, but Andy Goode was handed England's second yellow card of the match at the start of the second period and Wales immediately added 11 decisive points.

Stephen Jones struck the third and fourth of his five penalties and Leigh Halfpenny touched down to round off a swift counterattack to help establish a 20-8 advantage.

Wing Delon Armitage scored a solo try - England's second - and the conversion trimmed the deficit to five points but an overwhelming penalty count against the visitors handed the hosts a crucial edge.

Jones hit his last penalty in the 72nd to finish with 15 points as Wales equaled the tournament record for eight consecutive wins.

Wales moved to four points from two matches, two clear of England, Ireland and France.

Scotland stayed without a point in the championship after a 10th loss in 11 meetings with France but only after the home side was awarded a 46th-minute try that appeared to come from a forward pass.

A flowing move took wing Maxime Medard to within a couple of meters of the Scottish line but his pass in the tackle seemed to float forward into the arms of Fulgence Ouedraogo before the flanker touched down for his first international try.

The referee, though, could not tell and touch judge Wayne Barnes told him that the try was good.


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