A maddening Penaud and a first for Atonio, but also Wales’ lack of realism and the Blues’ embarrassing relaxation at the end of the match. Find out what our journalists at the Stade de France learned from the Blues’ 41-28 win against Wales.
By David Reyrat and Arnaud Coudry
Damian Penaud panics the counters
But where will it stop? At 26 years old, Damian Penaud is in the shape of his life and the statistics are in a frenzy. Scoring a (new) double against the Welsh on Saturday saw the Clermont winger score 21 tries in his last 26 caps! With these two extra units, he further confirms his status as the top French goalscorer of the tournament. He is now on 14 tries (a week after surpassing the previous record holder Vincent Clerc’s 11 performances at Twickenham). Do you want more ? For this Tournament, which ended with five personal attempts, he was the 10e best French scorer in history. He leaves the competition on the 5e place, with 26 tries in 42 selections. He overtook Aurélien Rougerie, Christian Darrouy (23 each) and Christophe Dominici (23). Here he is to Philippe Bernat-Salles and Émile Ntamack. Stay ahead of him Philippe Sella (30), Philippe Saint-André (32), Vincent Clerc (34) and Serge Blanco (38). A Serge Blanco that he tickles on another brand. Due to its 6e doubled in the blue jersey, he gets closer to the legendary number 15 who managed seven (but in 93 selections…). Finally, the future UBB winger finishes clearly as the top try-scorer for this 2023 edition, ahead of Scotsmen Huw Jones and Blair Kinghorn, 4 each.
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Atonio, hard right
A first for his 50e. Uini Atonio will remember this game against Wales for a long time. Indeed, for his 50e selection in the blue jersey, the La Rochelle mainstay scored its first international try, eventually served well by Thomas Ramos. Anything but an anecdote. This test came as the culmination of a mammoth match from the New Zealand-born Golgoth who was monstrous in close scrum. His vis-à-vis, poor Wyn Jones will surely long remember the ordeal the tricolor right-hander put him through. Solid at impact and adept with the ball in hand, Atonio is certainly one of the best in the world in his position. With Cyril Baille on the other side of his battle, France’s XV is damn equipped to aim for a first planetary title, in six months, on its land.
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France lets the powder speak
The Grand Slam is for Ireland, but the best attack is for the Blues. They scored 174 points in five days (almost 35 per game) against 151 for the Irish. In number of attempts they also finish just ahead of the winners of the Tournament: 21 attempts scored against 20. Naturally, the big and historic victory over Twickenham (53 points scored) largely contributed to the offensive demonstration of Thomas Ramos, best scorer of this edition with 84 points – far ahead of his pursuers, Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton (35 points) and Italian Tommaso Allan (34) -, Damian Penaud (5 tries), Charles Ollivon, Thibaud Flament (3 tries each) and their teammates.
The guilty release of Ramos and the Blues at the end of the game
On the 48e minute, the Blues led 34 to 7. Offensive bonus in the pocket and game folded. Due to guilty releases and three tries to finish with a 7-21 in favor of the Welsh. Thomas Ramos, also a surefire goalscorer and author of two assists on Uini Atonio’s and Damian Penaud’s attempts (his second), has been directly involved in two of the Dragons’ three exploits. On the 68e minute, the defender tries to recover from his goal area as useless as it is absurd. Only against three defenders did he get the ball snatched away for, some playing time later, an attempt by Tomos Williams. At the last minute, coming on the right wing, he misses the first tackle on Dyer. Penaud misses the second and tries from the Welsh winger. “The slight downside might be the two tries that were a bit stupidly given away at the end of the game, one of them with a bad raise from us, Ramos recognised. We had set a number of points not to take with us and we exceeded them…Another little regret from the captain, Antoine Dupont. “The ending of the game reflects some issues we may have. We gave them points, it happens regularly with us. We are often lifted up by our guilt. We need to be more consistent and strict throughout the game. It’s positive to even score more than 40 points, but yes, we should have taken less…»
The cruel lack of realism in Wales
The domination, both territorially and in terms of possession, was total. The first fifteen minutes we only saw the Welsh: 90% territorial occupation, and even more ball possession. But none of that helped much. An almost sterile domination with a single try scored by George North in the first hand (8th). A lot of trouble for the gang of grognards of the principality, immediately punished by the unstoppable Damian Penaud (10e) perfectly served by a clear elongated pass from Antoine Dupont. In the end, the Blues were able to turn their backs during this fire start from Leek’s XV. And at halftime, mass had already been said (20-7).
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Still the shadow of Bernard Laporte…
It’s an image France doesn’t understand about rugby. Not digest. The day before the match, the players of the XV of France received their tunics from Bernard Laporte for this last match of the tournament. From the hands of the outgoing chairman of the FFR, convicted at first instance (he appealed) for corruption. While all the lights are green for the French team before “on“World Cup, it stains. Rugby fans – and certainly those less initiated – fail to understand that the former leader is not stepping back. That he doesn’t slip away and let the Blues have their adventure. As we know, Fabien Galthié and Bernard Laporte are very closely related. Never before has a president made such financial and logistical resources available to his coach. Today, the XV of France, number 2 in the world ranking, is reaping the benefits. After the historic success at Twickenham, Galthié dedicated this victory to Laporte. Many were already frightened. The shadow of the former president of the FFR once again hovered over Saturday’s victory. With an uneasy feeling of unease.