Grand Slam Defining Moment: First-half France flurry silences Cardiff

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Arriving in Cardiff with a perfect record from two games, France were all-too aware that their first Grand Slam in six years was on if they navigated Wales in the 2010 Championship.

Arriving in Cardiff with a perfect record from two games, France were all-too aware that their first Grand Slam in six years was on if they navigated Wales in the 2010 Championship.

Wins over Scotland and Ireland had put Marc Lièvremont’s side in the box seat for a clean sweep but a visit to Principality Stadium – then the Millennium Stadium – is never easy.

A defeat to England in their Championship curtain-raiser before a hard-fought triumph against Scotland also meant that only victory would do for Wales to keep their title hopes alive.

But it was Les Bleus’ day as they stormed into a 20-0 lead at the break before holding off a second-half fightback from Warren Gatland’s men to claim a 26-20 success.

And it was the tries from Alexis Palisson and, in particular, Francois Trinh-Duc that proved decisive in a first-half flurry that propelled France to Grand Slam glory.


France’s record in Cardiff suggested reason to be optimistic before the game, with the visitors coming out on top in four off their last five visits to the Millennium Stadium.

But memories of what happened last time they were there still lingered, with Les Bleus seen off by Williams’ Shane and Martyn as Wales secured a Grand Slam of their own in 2008.

Yet having eased past Scotland 18-9 in Round 1 and overturned Ireland in Round 2, confidence was high amongst the squad ahead of a showdown with Wales.

And it showed in the opening 40 minutes as France came out of the blocks quickly, with Alexis Palisson intercepting a long James Hook pass and cantering in from 50m to score.

Morgan Parra added the extras in front of the posts before extending his side’s lead with a couple of penalties as Wales struggled to secure attacking ball with their line-out misfiring.


With France 13-0 up as the clock ticked towards the break, Wales pushed hard for a response and a blind-side break from Shane Williams provided some encouragement for the hosts.

But Les Bleus remained firm at the back and forced the pivotal error from Wales on the cusp of half-time when Williams once again looked to break forward from deep.

A half-break down the left came to nothing and after looking for an offload that wasn’t there, Trinh-Duc pounced and raced under the posts for his side’s second intercept try of the game.

Parra had the easy task of slotting the extras and Wales suddenly found themselves 20-0 down at the interval, a situation that had largely been of their own making.

Wales rallied upon the restart and closed the gap with two Stephen Jones penalties and a converted Leigh Halfpenny try but two France three-pointers put the result beyond doubt.

Williams showed his class in the final minute to cut through the France defence and sprint to the line but it proved too little, too late as the visitors celebrated a 26-20 win.


Much of the post-match analysis focused on the errors Wales had made in the first half, with Gatland left to rue his side’s sloppy play which gifted France two tries.

“I am proud of our second half performance,” he said. “Having been 20-0 down and the victims of our own intercepts, we went out, got some points and put France under pressure.

“We gave away a couple of stupid penalties at the end and missed a couple of chances or we could have got a lot closer.”

But while Wales were certainly architects of their own downfall, Les Bleus deserved all the acclaim that came their away for frustrating and hustling their hosts into making their mistakes.

Trinh-Duc’s reading of Williams and his hands to hold onto the ball was also a sight to behold, with his score ensuring France opened up a big enough advantage to cope with a Welsh fightback.

And having made it three from three in Cardiff, Les Bleus went on to defeat Italy in Saint-Denis before edging out England in a blockbuster finale to seal a brilliant ninth Grand Slam triumph.