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Ntamack inspires Grand Slam hopefuls France to Wales win

France celebrate beating Wales to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive

Mercurial flyhalf Romain Ntamack scored 17 points as ferocious France put in a stout defensive effort and claimed a 27-23 Six Nations victory over Wales to keep alive their Grand Slam hopes at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Fullback Anthony Bouthier, lock Paul Willemse and Ntamack scored tries as France made a bright start but then had to defend for much of the second half before earning a third successive victory in competition and a first win against Wales in Cardiff in a decade.

Prop Dillon Lewis and flyhalf Dan Biggar scored tries for the home side but they lacked a clinical touch and came second best in the physical contest.

France now face Scotland in Edinburgh on March 8, while Wales are at Twickenham a day earlier to meet England, with their chances of retaining their Six Nations title all but over.

France dominated the opening 30 minutes but went into the break with a 17-9 lead after allowing Wales to creep back into the contest.

The visitors scored their first try on seven minutes following a rare error from Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny, who timed his jump well to collect a high kick from Ntamack but spilled the ball and saw his opposite number Bouthier race clear to bag his first international try.

Wing Gael Fickou was perhaps unfortunate to see his try disallowed by the Television Match Official for a forward pass in the build-up, but two minutes later South African-born lock Willemse drove over from a line-out, barging his way past three Wales defenders to score on the half-hour mark.

The tide appeared to have turned in the home side’s favour at the start of the second period and they reduced the deficit to a single point when prop Lewis clattered over from close range.

But as Wales attacked the French line again, roared on by their home support, Ntamack read the intercept from centre Nick Tompkins’s pass and raced 70 metres to score a third for the visitors.

When he landed a penalty just past the hour-mark, the lead was extended to 11 points, but Wales were then denied a penalty try for a deliberate knockdown from Willemse after a review from the TMO.

It was a turning point in the game and, despite a try from Biggar five minutes from the end, Grand Slam holders Wales saw their championship charge this year fizzle out.

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