The top line
If Alfred Hitchcock wrote rugby matches, this is the one he scripted.
What a game; a breathless and engaged brawl without a demanded or given quarterback, a last-second thriller and a match that revolved around moments of indiscipline at the end, combined with a superhuman performance from French skipper Charles Ollivon.
Cliffhanger is an understatement and despite France’s 32-30 victory and derailment of Welsh Grand Slam hopes, it was a great shame that there had to be some form of loser in Paris. It takes two great teams to produce a game of this caliber and although defeated, Wales can hold their heads high.
Make no mistake about it: in a world of media hyperbole and analyst hype, this will go down as one of the greatest games in Six Nations history.
It was appropriate to watch Ollivon and Alun Wyn Jones hug and kiss at the end. The master and his obvious successor were both massive for their teams tonight, with the self-confidence of leaders on both sides dragging them into areas of commitment and brilliance rarely seen in sport.
For Jones, this may or may not be his last Scarlet of Wales game, but another red shirt beckons him. He was huge in Paris and there is no doubt he will lead the Lions against South Africa this summer.
For Ollivon, it was a moment of reference; a moment in time when he went from world class whispers to one of the best. His leadership, like Jones, is one such example, and his personal contribution over the past 10 minutes, where he took virtually every lineout, knocked out like a lock, scored one try and created another, was absolutely astounding. .
Jones may be in the final throes of his brilliant career, but with the wonderful symmetry of the game of rugby, Ollivon, his heir apparent as the game’s best leader, stood out as a shining beacon on Saturday.
In the last 15 minutes, Wales’ discipline of the season has crumbled under the pressure. Wave after wave of the French attack took their toll and Wales continued to offend, losing two players due to offenses they simply had to commit to keep the tide from turning.
The match, brilliantly refereed by Luke Pearce, had many incidents and at times, more referrals than an insurance salesperson’s conference, but the officials did a superb and fair job, and neither side benefited. capricious calls.
France looked lost after losing the impressive Matthieu Jalibert to an HIA, as pressure from the Welsh winning line, as well as some brilliant midfield lines from George North and Louis Rees-Zammit, looked to them. see at home after 70 minutes. But discipline is a two-way street; France kept theirs late in the game, Wales lost focus under the pressure and the rest is history.
The captain who inspired the comeback! 🇫🇷 💪
– Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) 20 mars 2021
What now for Wales?
Social media this week has been full of derogatory comments from all sides claiming Wales have been incredibly lucky, suggesting any Grand Slam has been the luckiest in history etc. But there is an old adage in the sport that the harder you work the luckier you get and this experienced Welsh team is one of the hardest working teams in the world.
It took a while to figure out the new attacking systems under Wayne Pivac, but it’s no coincidence that everywhere and every time Wales have played there have been a multitude of tries and good matches. He built a nearly (well, for 70 minutes) winning line defense, led by the brilliant back-line Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi and Taulupe Faletau, and he developed a keen attacking plan at 9 and 10. with big runners to the rhythm of the midfield. , supported by a powerful operation of the exceptional Ken Owens.
Maybe Wales are not quite the finished article yet, but they’re one hell of a team, with world-class players in every unit and the future, both in terms of caps. Lions and results, is really very bright.
And now for France?
France made a massive turnaround on Saturday. They saw a close game under enormous pressure with a man off the pitch and in terms of mental development that will do wonders in terms of benchmarks going forward.
We’ve mentioned Ollivon before and he’s HIS team – he’s the focal point, the motivator, the calm under pressure. However, with the world’s best scrum-half and two of the game’s top 10s, France have talent everywhere. Their midfielder has continued to be tough and straightforward in Paris while many in the past have reportedly given up. Their scrum is improving and their roster is second to none.
Overall, they have proven to be a force to be reckoned with in the 2023 Rugby World Cup, but for now all thoughts are on Scotland next weekend and, based on this result against Wales, who would bet against them. the four-try bonus and 21-point margin they need to win the title?