Six Nations 2017: Wales Player Ratings versus France

George North

Wales succumbed to what will surely go down as the most farcical and latest finish in Six Nations history after conceding a converted try following 20 minutes of injury time. Scrum resets, sin-binnings, HIAs, alleged cheating, biting accusations and uncertainty over the use of replacements were all talking points from a bizarre end to what had been an average game of rugby. Unfortunately for the Welsh, France’s 100th-minute seven pointer lost them the match, consigned them to a disappointing fifth place finish and possibly another tough Rugby World Cup draw.

Leigh Halfpenny – 8
Produced a flawless kicking display as he landed all six of his penalties with five being from difficult angles or close to halfway. Hauled Wales back from 0-10 down to 15-10, then looked to have sealed victory with a simple kick for 18-13 in the 72nd minute before all the late drama unfolded. Foiled a French attack on 42 minutes by bravely sliding in to claim a kicked through ball.

George North – 8.5
A constant nuisance to the French off of restarts with his catching and chasing. Showed enthuasium and excellent work-rate off the ball. Was denied a certain try by Virimi Vakatawa’s knock down of Dan Biggar’s pass with the try-line gaping on 18 minutes. Won Wales a penalty in defence at the breakdown in the 33rd minute and superbly caught a restart in the air just before the interval.

Jonathan Davies – 6?
Lucky not to be penalised with a yellow card for palming away a pass which would have led to a French try during a period of early home pressure. In a game where passing accuracy and execution was lacking throughout Wales’ backline, one notable off-load to Liam Williams early in the second half was the highlight of a what was an otherwise unremarkable display.

Scott Williams – 5?
Guilty of conceding and handing over possession to France on more than one occasion. Lost the ball in the 24th minute. Latched on to a Dan Biggar chip on 37 minutes, but dropped the ball in the 50th-minute which allowed Gael Fickou to counter. Replaced by Jamie Roberts on 53 minutes following a below-par performance.

Liam Williams – 6?
Lack of communication with Rhys Webb proved costly for France’s first try. Neither player took responsibility to cover the space in behind when Camille Lopez chipped for Remi Lamerat to score. His brilliant follow-up for a kick and chase on 50 minutes – where he halted a French attack, covered a 2v1 in defence then tackled after slipping on the ground – were the standout actions from an average showing.

Dan Biggar – 5
?An underwhelming display from the out-half which has surely put paid to his hopes of being selected for the British & Irish Lions summer tour to New Zealand. Denied an assist by Virimi Vakatawa for a probable George North try on 18 minutes and rose well to claim a box-kick on 26 minutes, but his general play and passing were poor. Was about to be yellow-carded just before France scored their match-winning second try.

Rhys Webb – 6
?Mix up in communication with Liam Williams over who should cover in behind Wales’ try-line allowed France to exploit the space and go over in the sixth minute. Made an important steal of the ball in defence on 36 minutes, but had a box-kicked clearance charged down in the 45th minute which almost let France in. Like most of the Welsh backline, he was off his best and struggled to make any real impact.

Rob Evans – 6.5
Gave a nice slip pass on the half hour mark and made a strong surging run going forward in 57th minute. Brilliantly held up Rabah Slimani (a controversial substitute for Uini Atonio) under severe pressure from a defending 5-metre scrum. Was the game’s final player to be replaced in the 96th minute by Nicky Smith before France finally went over.

Ken Owens – 7
Reliable with his lineout throws as Wales’ second-row disintegrated after injuries to Alun Wyn Jones and Jake Ball due to the sheer physicality of the France pack. Showed excellent defence despite being flattened in the process after the restart. Was hit high in the tackle which earned Wales a penalty in front of the posts for Leigh Halfpenny to make it 18-13 on 72 minutes.

Tom Francis – 6
?Given a torrid time by powerful France forwards who dominated at scrum time and the breakdown. Got penalised for killing the ball in the first half then collapsing a scrum in the second. Was taken off on 59 minutes for Samson Lee, but brought back on to contest the scrums while Lee was in the sin-bin before being replaced again after Lee’s 10 minutes were up.

Jake Ball – 6?

Went down injured in the 51st minute and received treatment a few minutes later. However, the lock was unable to recover and had to be taken off for prop Scott Baldwin to act as a stand-in second row with Luke Charteris already on for the recently departed Alun Wyn Jones. In the time Ball was on the pitch, Wales’ lineout functioned adequately.

Alun Wyn Jones – 6
Not the big presence he was in the win against Ireland the previous weekend as a brutal France chopped down Wales’ second row after the restart. Claimed a lineout and led a strong maul in the 22nd minute, but was down holding his ribs in the 43rd minute. Jones carried on until the 51st minute before Luke Charteris replaced him.

Sam Warburton – 7
Regained the Wales captaincy after Alun Wyn Jones was forced off with injury on 51 minutes. Made a crucial steal in the 55th minute and stripped the ball off French hands on 77 minutes before attempting a defence-splitting grubber kick which ran out of play beyond the try-line. Defended well despite France bossing the breakdown around the fringes and bettering the turnover count.

Justin Tipuric – 8.5?
Has to be in Warren Gatland’s Lions squad for New Zealand this summer after yet another top quality effort from the hard-working Wales back rower. Made big hits, slowed down French ball in the rucks and a secure lineout receiver as he claimed three throws. France were forced to illegally stop him taking a fourth, which earned a penalty that Leigh Halfpenny kicked to make it 15-10 on 65 minutes.

Ross Moriarty – 6.5?
Put in a huge hit on Louis Picamoles with Justin Tipuric to send the French No. 8 backwards in the 44th minute. Moriarty also displayed strong tackling in the 37th minute then a nice show and go just before the break. Was replaced by Taulupe Falateu on 53 minutes, but came back on as a makeshift second row in the 71st minute following a head injury to substitute Scott Baldwin.?

BENCH
The use of the replacements bench was certainly questioned during a strange period of additional time after the 80 minutes had elapsed. But it was also stretched in a bruising contest which saw Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones and Tom Francis (who was later forced back on to contest the scrum while Samson Lee was in the sin-bin) all come off injured. This required Taulupe Faletau and Scott Baldwin (who came off due to a bleeding head with substituted Ross Moriarity returning) to play out of position at second row.

By Aron Hegarty

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