Classic Match: Wales comeback stuns French in Paris

In 2005, the Stade de France played host to one of Wales’ best NatWest 6 Nations victories, as they kept their Grand Slam dream alive in Paris.

In 2005, the Stade de France played host to one of Wales’ best NatWest 6 Nations victories, as they kept their Grand Slam dream alive in Paris.

Head coach Mike Ruddock and his Wales team, in search of a first Championship win since 1994, headed over to face the defending champions in the French capital.

Overturning a half-time deficit, Wales staged a remarkable comeback to win 24-18 in one of the Championship’s finest matches.

France 18-24 Wales Stade de France February 26 2005   Setting the scene

Wales were hunting a first Grand Slam in 27 years, having not achieved the feat since 1978 and the great Wales side that won four Championships in five seasons.

The Welsh had begun their campaign in perfect fashion, a late Gavin Henson penalty sealing a 11-9 win over England at Principality Stadium.

They followed that up with a convincing six-try win over Italy in Rome to put them in a promising position ahead of their trip to Paris.

The French, though, looked in ominous form, having seen off a determined Scotland side in Paris before emerging from Twickenham with a narrow 18-17 victory thanks to six Dimitri Yachvili penalties.

France had won the Grand Slam the year before and the pre-game consensus was that they might have enough experience to see off the Welsh challenge, but Ruddock’s men had other ideas.

The Teams

Both sides featured greats of NatWest 6 Nations rugby, with captain Fabien Pelous leading a French side containing Serge Betsen, Yachvili, Christophe Dominici and Aurelien Rougerie.

Wales were led by Gareth Thomas and carried a potent try-scoring threat in Shane Williams on the left wing and Martyn Williams at flanker.

With a star-studded back line, featuring Dwayne Peel, Stephen Jones, Gavin Henson and Tom Shanklin, Wales were certainly going to be a difficult team to beat.

How the action unfolded

France raced into a 15-6 half-time lead thanks to tries from Yachvili and Rougerie.

The scrum-half cut a path through the Wales defence to score their first and when Rougerie finished off a flowing backs move, it was all Wales could do to hang on, keeping within touching distance thanks to two Jones penalties.

After the break, Martyn Williams sprang into life, scoring two quick tries to send Wales in front, the second a superb piece of individual brilliance, taking a quick penalty to surprise the French defence and fling himself over for the try.

A Frederic Michalak drop-goal pulled France level but it was Wales who showed the most mettle to push on and win the game, Jones the hero as his penalty and drop-goal sealed a glorious Welsh triumph.

The jubilant scenes at the final whistle were tempered by the knowledge that Wales had two big games to go.

A trip to Murrayfield followed, and Wales then sealed the Grand Slam with a 32-20 win over Ireland in Cardiff to close out a historic Championship for the Welsh.

What they said

Wales head coach Mike Ruddock: “We’ve got belief, confidence and skill.

“Those last minutes on our own line today underline the character of the team.

“We can’t talk about the Grand Slam. Scotland have just had a great win, the pressure is on us and I’m sure they will bombard us with all they’ve got.”

France winger Rougerie said: “They can do the Grand Slam. Ireland are a big challenge, but Wales have an enormous ability to play turnover ball back at you and score every time.”   France: Laharrague, Rougerie, Jauzion, Traille, Dominici, Delaigue, Yachvili, Marconnet, Bruno, Mas, Pelous (capt), Thion, Betsen, Nyanga, Bonnaire. Replacements: Servat, Milloud, Lamboley, Harinordoquy, Mignoni, Michalak, Grandclaude.

Wales: G Thomas (capt), Morgan, Shanklin, Henson, S Williams, S Jones, Peel, Jenkins, Davies, A Jones, Cockbain, Sidoli, R Jones, M Williams, Owen. Replacements: McBryde, Yapp, J Thomas, Sowden-Taylor, Cooper, Sweeney, R Williams.   Attendance: 79,000 Referee: Paul Honiss