March 23, 2023

A maddening Penaud and a first for Atonio, but also the Welsh lack of realism and the embarrassing relaxation of the Blues at the end of the match. Find out what our journalists present at the Stade de France learned from the victory of the Blues (41-28) against Wales.


Damian Penaud panics the counters

But where will it stop? At 26, Damian Penaud is in the shape of his life and the statistics are panicking. By scoring a (new) double on Saturday against the Welsh, the Clermont winger has scored 21 tries in his last 26 caps! With these two additional units, he further confirms his status as the best French scorer in the Tournament. He is now at 14 tries (a week after having exceeded the 11 achievements of the previous record holder, Vincent Clerc, at Twickenham). Do you want more ? Before this Tournament, which ended with five personal tries, he was the 10e best French scorer in history. He leaves the competition at the 5e place, with 26 tries in 42 selections. He overtook Aurélien Rougerie, Christian Darrouy (23 each) and Christophe Dominici (23). Here he is up to Philippe Bernat-Salles and Émile Ntamack. Remain, in front 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. By registering his 6e doubled in the blue jersey, he is getting closer to the legendary number 15 who has succeeded in seven (but in 93 selections…). Finally, the future UBB winger obviously finishes as the best try scorer for this 2023 edition, ahead of the Scots Huw Jones and Blair Kinghorn, 4 each.

Atonio, the hard right

A first for his 50e. Uini Atonio will remember this match against Wales for a long time. Indeed, for his 50e selection in the blue jersey, the pillar of La Rochelle scored his first international try, well served in the end by Thomas Ramos. Anything but an anecdote. This test came to crown a titanic match of the golgoth of New Zealand origin, which was monstrous in close scrum. His vis-à-vis, poor Wyn Jones, will surely remember for a long time the ordeal that the tricolor right-hander put him through. Atonio, solid on impact and skilled with the ball in hand, is surely one of the best in the world in his position. With Cyril Baille on the other side of his fray, the XV of France is damn equipped to aim for a first planetary title, in six months, on his land.

France makes 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 tries, they also finish just ahead of the winners of the Tournament : 21 tries scored against 20. Obviously, the large and historic victory at 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, the Irishman Jonathan Sexton (35 points) and the 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 match

At the 48e minute, the Blues led 34 to 7. Offensive bonus in the pocket and game folded. For guilty releases and three tries conceded to finish with a 7-21 in favor of the Welsh. Thomas Ramos, otherwise infallible goalscorer and author of two assists on the tries of Uini Atonio and Damian Penaud (his second), is directly involved in two of the three achievements of the Dragons. At the 68e minute, the back tries from his in-goal a recovery as useless as it is absurd. Alone against three defenders, he had the ball snatched away for, some playing time later, a try from 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 small downside, perhaps, are the two tries conceded a little stupidly at the end of the match, one of which with a bad raise from us, recognized Ramos. We had set a number of points not to be taken and we exceeded it…” A little more no more regrets from the captain, Antoine Dupont. “The end of the game reflects some problems we may have. We gave them points, it’s recurrent with us. We often get lifted by our fault. We must be more consistent, more rigorous throughout the match. It’s positive to put even more than 40 points but, yes, we should have taken less…»

Welsh’s cruel lack of realism

The domination, whether territorial or in terms of ball possession, was total. During the first quarter of an hour, we only saw the Welsh: 90% territorial occupation, and even more possession of the ball. But all of that didn’t help much. An almost sterile domination with a single try scored by George North in first hand (8th). A lot of effort for the band of grognards of the Principality, immediately punished by the untenable Damian Penaud (10e) perfectly served by a limpid elongated pass from Antoine Dupont. In the end, the Blues were able to turn their backs during this start of fire from the XV of Leek. And, at halftime, the mass was already said (20-7).

Still the shadow of Bernard Laporte…

It is an image that France of rugby does not understand. Do not digest. The day before the game,the players of the XV of France received their tunic from the hands of Bernard Laporte for this last match of the Tournament. From the hands of the resigning president of the FFR, convicted at first instance (he appealed) for corruption. While all the lights are green for the France team before “her“World Cup, it stains. Rugby fans – and even more those who are less initiated – do not understand that the former leader does not step back. That he does not slip away and let the Blues live their adventure. As we know, Fabien Galthié and Bernard Laporte are very close, intimately linked. Never has a president made such resources, financial and logistical, available to his coach. Today, the XV of France, number 2 in the world ranking, is reaping the rewards. After the historic success at Twickenham, Galthié had dedicated this victory to Laporte. Already, many had twitched. The shadow of the former president of the FFR once again hovered over Saturday’s victory. With an awkward feeling of unease.

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