CARDIFF, United Kingdom — Wales claimed their third Six-Nations Grand Slam in eight years when they beat World Cup finalists France 16-9 at the Millennium Stadium here yesterday. The Welsh side, marshalled magnificently by fly-half Rhys Priestland and indefatigable flanker Dan Lydiate, produced a nervous display but still managed to dominate a conservative France team that relied heavily on a kicking game.
The victory, following successes over Ireland (23-21), Scotland (27-13), England (19-12) and Italy (24-3), was sweet revenge for the heart-breaking one-point loss Wales suffered against Les Bleus in the World Cup semifinal. A stunning solo try by winger Alex Cuthbert, allied with three penalties and a conversion by Leigh Halfpenny were enough to see off a French side that scored three penalties through Dimitri Yachvili (2) and Lionel Beauxis.
Man of the match Lydiate was overjoyed by the victory.
Wales mounted the early pressure, Jonathan Davies cut down by Wesley Fofana in the corner, but it was France who got on the scoreboard first, Yachvili kicking an easy penalty in the 11th minute.
Priestland was the surprise first-up kicker for Wales, with Halfpenny having been preferred earlier in the tournament, but his first effort came back off the post.
A slick lineout move saw Yachvili set up hooker William Servat for a charge at the line, but a fine covering tackle by George North cut the Toulouse veteran down.
When Alun Wyn Jones turned over Thierry Dusautoir in midfield, Wales recycled the ball quickly, Priestland finding Cuthbert out wide.
The 21-year-old winger then produced two scintillating side-steps to leave the French cover for dead and go in under the posts for a superb five-pointer that Halfpenny converted.
Halfpenny increased Wales' lead with a penalty after Jonathan Davies tackled Beauxis man-and-ball, hacked ahead and Alexis Palisson held on too long while covering.
The Welsh fullback saw his second penalty attempt on the stroke of half-time come back off the upright, with the home side dominating both territory and possession.
Warburton came off at half-time with a shoulder injury, and France seized the early momentum in the second period.
Replacement fullback Jean-Marcellin Buttin chipped over the home defence but while Jenkins was on hand to snaffle the ball, there was a ruck infringement and Beauxis kicked a penalty to cut Wales' lead to four.
Wales saw out the final remaining minutes to claim an 11th Grand Slam title.
Italy BEAT Scotland
Italy defeat Scotland 13-6 at a sunny Stadio Olimpico yesterday.
Italy’s first win under coach Jacques Brunel, who took charge after last year’s World Cup, left Scotland with five defeats from five in this season’s championship.
Wing Giovanbattista Venditti scored the game’s only try when he burst through early in the second half after a dour opening 40 minutes in which each side exchanged a penalty.
Mirco Bergamasco kicked a penalty and Kristopher Burton added a conversion and a late drop goal for the hosts while Greig Laidlaw kicked two penalties for a Scotland side who were once again undone by mistakes and ill-discipline, losing Nick De Luca and Jim Hamilton to the sin bin.
Rolland’s patience had run thin when he yellow-carded centre De Luca for an errant boot and Italy swiftly capitalised on their numerical advantage soon after the
restart. — AFP