France 41-28 Wales: Gatland's side dispatched by clinical French in Six Nations finale
Wales' 2023 Six Nations campaign ended in defeat as they went down 41-28 to France in Paris.
Dan Biggar got proceedings underway as Warren Gatland's side looked to pull off an unlikely victory over Les Bleus, who still have hopes of winning the title.
But it was the visitors who started fastest, turning down three kickable penalties in the opening eight minutes. Eventually their pressure told as Rhys Webb put George North over for the try.
Biggar converted but France were soon going up the other end. A missed tackle by Nick Tompkins on Romain Ntamack saw the French No.10 scythe through.
The ball found its way to winger Damian Penaud via Antoine Dupont to finish a 50 metre move. Thomas Ramos added the extras.
Wales were in town to throw caution to the wind. They racked up offloads, turned down kickable penalties and full-back Louis Rees-Zammit was running everything back.
Wales enjoyed plenty of territory and possession for the remainder of the opening quarter, with the game being played almost exclusively in the French half.
But they couldn't turn any of their dominance into further points and the score remained 7-7 as the game ticked beyond the 20-minute mark.
France took the lead in the 26th minute after Julien Marchand won a penalty at the breakdown, with Ramos adding three points to his side's tally.
And the full-back added three more shortly after following a scrum penalty in the Wales 22.
In the 34th minute, some nice interplay between Ramos and Dupont released the latter and Wales were scrambling in their own 22. It was spun wide to this near side and Rio Dyer could do little to stop Jonathan Danty crossing in the corner.
Ramos' touchline conversion made it 20-7 and that was the score at half time.
The hosts didn't take long to get back into their stride after the break. A half break from Dupont in the Welsh 22 put his side on the front foot and tight-head prop Uini Atonio barged over. Ramos' conversion made it 27-7.
Things then started to get ugly as France continued to show their ruthless streak. A devastatingly accurate strike move cut Wales to pieces and centre Gael Fickou breezed over for the bonus point try.
Wales did offer something as the game approached the hour mark. Justin Tipuric turned the ball over in France's 22 and North carried hard before offloading to Biggar.
Quick hands released Josh Adams, who was brought down just short before replacement hooker Bradley Roberts crashed over. The conversion dented the French lead but it was still 34-14 with a little over 20 minutes remaining.
Gatland's side re-established a foothold in the game and crossed for a third try through replacement scrum-half Tomos Williams following a strong carry from Aaron Wainwright. Biggar converted again and the deficit was down to 13.
But as Wales tired, France looked ominous and Penaud added another try in the corner with two minutes remaining.
There was still time, though, for Rio Dyer to slip out of a tackle and run in to score from the edge of France's 22, bringing the curtain down on a tumultuous campaign for Wales.
France: Thomas Ramos; Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Ethan Dumortier; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (C); Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Uini Atonio; Thibaud Flament, Romain Taofifenua; Francios Cros, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt.
Reps: Peato Mauvaka, Reda Wardi, Sipili Falatea, Bastien Chalureau, Sekou Macalou, Maxime Lucu, Yoram Moefana, Melvyn Jaminet.
Wales: Louis Rees-Zammit; Josh Adams, George North, Nick Tompkins, Rio Dyer; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens (C), Tomas Francis; Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones; Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.
Reps: Bradley Roberts, Gareth Thomas, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Tomos Williams, Owen Williams, Leigh Halfpenny.
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