Classic match: Historic day for Welsh match-winner Neil Jenkins

Neil Jenkins 17/3/2001
History was made during the 2001 NatWest 6 Nations match between France and Wales when Welsh fly-half Neil Jenkins broke into uncharted territory, in terms of points-scoring.

History was made during the 2001 NatWest 6 Nations match between France and Wales when Welsh fly-half Neil Jenkins broke into uncharted territory, in terms of points-scoring.

Jenkins’ achievement came in a thrilling contest at the Stade de France that saw six tries scored and the teams rack up 78 points between them, with Wales coming out on top.

Here is the story of the game.   Setting the scene This was actually Wales’ first match in the Championship in a month, after their third round game with Ireland was postponed due the foot-and-mouth outbreak that had swept through Great Britain.

A heavy defeat to England had been followed by an enthralling 28-28 draw with Scotland in Edinburgh and Jenkins went into the game on 983 points for his country.

France’s start to the NatWest 6 Nations had been mixed, with victories over Scotland and Italy being coupled with a 22-15 against Ireland in Dublin meaning they needed a win to put pressure on a rampant England at the top of the standings.

The teams France’s star of the Championship to this point had been winger Philippe Bernat-Salles, who had scored a try in each of Les Bleus’ three matches.

Gerald Merceron and Fabien Galthie were the half-backs looking to get their attack firing, while the hosts were led by captain Fabien Pelous in the second row.

In trying for their first win in that year’s Championship, Wales included plenty of British & Irish Lions experience in their line-up, including Jenkins, Scott Gibbs, Rob Howley and Scott Quinnell.

Under head coach Graham Henry, who would coach the Lions on their tour of Australia that summer, the visitors had firepower on either wing in the form of Dafydd James and Gareth Thomas.

How the action unfolded It took France eight minutes to score the game’s first try when Merceron put centre Sebastien Bonetti in the clear before the former then slotted a penalty.

The match then became a battle of the boot between the two fly-halves, with Merceron kicking three penalties to two from Jenkins to put the hosts 19-9 ahead after 34 minutes.

Despite being under heavy pressure, Wales found a route back into the game before half-time thanks to a magnificent try from Howley that saw him break from just outside his own 22.

The visitors then hit the front seven minutes after the restart through Quinnell’s converted try before Christophe Lamaison’s penalty was followed by a drop goal from Jenkins.

Wales extended their lead when James rounded off a terrific move to score, with the conversion from Jenkins making him the first player to pass 1,000 points in international rugby.

France weren’t finished yet, with Bernat-Salles keeping up his try-a-game record and Lamaison kicking two penalties to put his side 35-33 ahead.

But a fantastic match was settled Wales’ way with Jenkins’ kicking a 78th-minute drop goal before completing the ‘full house’ with a late try to finish the match with a personal haul of 28 points.

The aftermath This was Wales’ second thrilling victory in Paris in a row and they followed it up with a 33-23 win over Italy in Rome, with Jenkins scoring another 18 points.

Their campaign, however, ended with a 36-6 home defeat against Ireland, meaning they finished fourth in the table.

That was still higher than France, who lost their final match 48-19 at England (despite Bernat-Salles scoring yet again) to leave head coach Bernard Laporte with plenty to work on.

Where are they now? Jenkins, who finished with 1,049 points in 87 Tests with Wales, is now part of their coaching set-up as their skills coach, a position he has held since 2006.

Howley is right-hand man to Wales head coach Warren Gatland and both he and Jenkins have coached with the Lions, while their tighthead prop Dai Young is director of rugby at English side Wasps.

Quinnell is a prominent rugby pundit on British television, while on the French side, Bernat-Salles has recently stepped down as president of the French National Handball League.

France 35 Wales 43 Venue: Stade de France Date: 17 March 2001 Referee: Alan Lewis Attendance: 78,000