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Wales 27 France 6: North lights Les Bleus touch paper as Wales find their fire

Reigning champions Wales put their RBS 6 Nations title attempt back on track with a Millennium Stadium dismantling of France that ended Les Bleus' grand slam hopes.

George North scores the early try that set Wales on the way to a win which kept their RBS 6 Nations championship hopes alive. Picture: Stu Foster/Getty Images
George North scores the early try that set Wales on the way to a win which kept their RBS 6 Nations championship hopes alive. Picture: Stu Foster/Getty Images

Wales were transformed from the side left battered and bruised by Ireland 13 days ago, never looking back after an early George North try and five Leigh Halfpenny penalties put them 14 points clear at half-time.

It did not improve for France after the break either, as Wales powered on to record a 27-6 victory - a record Six Nations margin for the home side against Les Bleus - after captain Sam Warburton touched down and Halfpenny converted.

The woeful visitors could only manage penalties by Jean-Marc Doussain and Jules Plisson in reply, while they had two forwards - prop Nicolas Mas and number eight Louis Picamoles - sin-binned during the second period, the former after a scrum which also led to a yellow card for Gethin Jenkins of Wales.

Warren Gatland's side, having revived their hopes of achieving an unprecedented Six Nations title hat-trick, now move on to tackle England at Twickenham in 16 days' time.

The coach will be thrilled that his players responded from their Dublin debacle in such devastating fashion, taking charge of the game early on and never loosening their grip.

France offered next to nothing in reply, but for the main part they were simply not allowed to as Wales tackled and harried them out of their stride and served notice that they still mean business in a championship that looked to have passed them by.

Scarlets lock Jake Ball, in for the injured Alun Wyn-Jones, and scrum-half Rhys Webb both made their first Wales starts, while previously unbeaten France made just one change from the side that defeated Italy 12 days ago, with Wenceslas Lauret, the Racing Metro flanker, taking over from an injured Bernard Le Roux.

When the match got under way, a clearly fired-up home side stormed eight points clear inside six minutes through Halfpenny's 48-metre penalty and North's try, after the giant wing capitalised on defensive hesitancy between Doussain and France full-back Brice Dulin.

Halfpenny missed the conversion attempt, but he quickly made amends by landing another long-range penalty. France looked as though they had cut the deficit when wing Yoann Huget danced his way over Wales' line, but play was called back because of a knock-on by French captain Pascal Pape.

Doussain and Halfpenny then exchanged penalties, but after Doussain missed his next shot at goal, half-back partner Plisson took over and cut the gap with a penalty to 14-6.

More Halfpenny penalties guided the Welsh into a 20-6 interval advantage, prompting Philippe Saint-Andre, the France coach, to replace an ineffective Doussain with Maxime Machenaud for the second period.

Referee Alain Rolland readily awarded penalties to both sides and his patience at scrum-time expired when one collapse too many resulted in him sin-binning rival props Jenkins and Nicolas, leaving both sides temporarily down to 14 men.

Picamoles departed almost as Mas returned, and then Warburton stretched out to score, sealing the victory and serving notice that Wales are well and truly back.

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