How France saved their Six Nations hopes and denied Wales a Grand Slam will have big rugby thinkers poring over their videos for days and weeks – but the myth that red cards ruin the games is officially broken.
Pieces of analysis will study the sending of Paul Willemse in the 67th minute; the two yellows from Wales who scored 14v13; the penalty test was not given; the Welsh score that could be retained; the three times that France crossed the tryline but was told that the ball did not touch the grass.
The list of small, big moments is almost as long as the game itself – the last five minutes alone, a life of postgraduate rugby analysis study.
For Gael Fickou, the catalyst was Willemse’s card, denying France what at the time looked like a crucial score when it was 10 points. “The red card has re-mobilized us,” he said. “We never give up, we are not cheaters… Our state of mind was remarkable tonight. We gave ourselves the chance to go get something next week [against Scotland]. »
Captain Charles Ollivon also believes Les Bleus have taken on something crucial at a time when previous French teams have reportedly collapsed. “When we took that red card that we had just scored, it was psychologically difficult,” he said. “But as we repeated in the locker room, we must not overplay. We stayed cool. We were heroic.
Fabien Galthie, meanwhile, couldn’t resist a post-match search of the incident. “If you look at him, there’s clearly no contact, or if there is, it’s very limited. If you really look at the reaction from the Welsh players. They specialize in having opponents get red cards. It was an outrageous comment from a coach who had just seen the nerves he usually saw shredded over 80 of the most intense international rugby minutes of his tenure.
Ignore the unnecessary hit on the Welsh dragon. Fikou and Ollivon are right. France – now back in third place in the World Rugby rankings – were second best until then, and Wales were pulling away. After that, visitors fought just to hang on as France retaliated.
France had been dangerous in attack – like everyone else in tournament, but they lacked the defensive aggression to which we have become accustomed. It is as if they decide to take back the defense of Shaun Edwards, mandated by 11, so that they have something left at the end of the match if they have to do in Wales what England had done to them. week before.
When it comes to game plans, if that’s what it is, it’s risky. And what Edwards can think of it is a mystery. Wrapped in his official France Merch parka, he was almost catatonic in the stands – even when his colleagues were on their feet, raging against Olivon’s late-game decision to reset another scrum as the seconds ticked by and the an improbable return seemed more and more impossible. But it worked. This time, anyway.
Ollivon, it turned out, was right to reset once again, despite the opinions of his coaches. He’s blitzed from the scrum – and the 20-30 scorecard rose to 27-30 as Romain Ntamack, on the stand, added the conversion.
Wales still had their win, however. They gave long kicks and forced France to attack deep – and when Uini Atonio struck, the Slam was theirs. But, securing the ball for the glory touch kick, Cory Hill was penalized for buckling.
France had its chance. Last week, out of breath, their latest attack was repelled by England. On Saturday they had enough in the bank – with the clock in the red – to play 11 phases in one minute and 40 seconds to set up what, in print, reads like the simplest of overlapping endings, perfectly executed as first Fickou then Arthur. Vincent corrected their defenders to give a point to Brice Dulin, player of the match.
But it worked because at that time, in that place, France had the cool head that Ollivon was referring to. Fickou, Vincent and Dulin – and everyone who touched the ball in that 100-second block – were lucid enough to win.
All that’s left in this Six Nations is Covid’s postponed match against Scotland on Friday. Ollivon is not an arrogant captain, which makes his final words clearly spoken on the subject a little threatening.
“We have six days left together and a trophy to collect. It is important to savor this evening but the passage will be very easy.
“We are already thinking about Friday and everyone is already going in the same direction.”