Wales were saved by a couple of shocking French errors and sheer force of habit as they achieved a great escape in a thrilling 24-19 comeback win in the Six Nations opener at the Stade de France on Friday.
Trailing 16-0 at halftime to a fired-up France, the Welsh turned the situation around, greatly assisted by schoolboy errors from Yoann Huget and Sebastien Vahaamahina.
“It’s nice to get out of jail, 16-0 down and win the game, it’s pretty important,” Wales coach Warren Gatland told reporters.
“We were terrible in the first half, holding on to the ball. The message at halftime was just to raise the tempo and if we can get through four or five phases holding the ball we’ll create chances and we did that in the second half.
“Winning is a habit and we have it at the moment,” he added after Wales‘s 10th consecutive victory.
George North added to Tomos Williams’s try in the second half when he touched down after Huget spilled the ball on the try line as the French winger ran back to deal with a hopeful kick through.
North then claimed what turned out to be the winning try by intercepting a crazy long pass from Vahaamahina just after Les Bleus had regained the lead.
“You’ve got to believe in yourself. I’ve always been positive, always been an optimist,” Gatland said.
“I thought today that our game management was poor, we didn’t manage it as well as we could. We found a way to win and we’ve forgotten at the moment how to lose games. It’s a big start for us.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the championship and the next game in Italy, Gatland said: “To win this Championship – and everyone who’s won it in the last 10 years – there’s games you get lucky in.
“We look back on times when we won the Championship, won the Grand Slam and we’ve had a little bit of luck, bounce of the ball. You need that to win this Championship, because it is tough, but momentum does really help as you go along.”
France were left to rue another missed opportunity.
“We managed to put them under pressure,” coach Jacques Brunel said.
“We did not start the second half well. We had tough luck twice, we helped them win the game.”
Les Bleus cannot afford to make the same mistakes when they travel to London to face England next weekend at Twickenham.