By Rhys Thomas
March 19 2012
After seven weeks and five gruelling matches, Wales secured the Grand Slam by beating France in Cardiff.
Champions of Europe. Wales have defeated all opposition in Europe to become Grand Slam champions. They beat the French with a big defensive effort, and they refused to wilt under persistent attacks from Les Bleus. It wasn’t a classy game, but it is definitely one that will live long in the memory.
The French defence was steadfast for most of the first half, but not when Alex Cuthbert sliced through France and scored what turned out to be the only try of the game. That was after Rhys Priestland had missed a fairly simple penalty goal (not for the first time). Lionel Beauxis had come to kick the leather off the ball – and that’s what he did. Not that Wales were complaining, they weren’t looking for anything flashy, just a win. Halfpenny and co responded with their fair share of kicks, which were much more penetrative than France’s. It was 10-3 at the interval, and was anyone’s game.
The big news going into this half was that Sam Warburton was injured again, and that Ryan Jones was coming on to replace him. Having Sam go off may not have been ideal, but Jones stepped up to the plate, showing commitment which epitomised the Welsh play. He carried the ball, and made big hits in defence, and along with Dan Lydiate and Gethin Jenkins led the charge in these areas. France made some smart plays, including a penalty that was kicked crossfield to Jean-Marcellin Buttin, but stopped by tackling machine Lydiate. The match was tense, and neither side ran the ball much or threw it about, but Wales didn’t care. The final whistle went and the score was 16-9. It was an attritional battle, and showed that the Welsh can win these types of games. Well done boys.
Man of the Match
Dan Lydiate – The Dragons blindside was tackling everything in a blue shirt, he was simply immense. He popped up all over the pitch putting in huge hits on backs and forwards, and he was supported by a huge defensive effort – which was boosted by the sight of Lydiate putting his body on the line time and time again.