Six Nations: Joy and relief as Wales' losing run ends in tears against France

Crying Roberts pays tribute to passion of champions as they keep one hand on trophy

It said it all that Wales' Jamie Roberts, after earning his 50th cap, broke down in tears of joy during a post-match TV interview in Paris. George North's quality try and Leigh Halfpenny's brilliant conversion and penalty had turned a 6-6 stalemate into a long overdue and very welcome 16-6 Wales win against France.

"We have come in for a lot of stick over the last year, a lot of it warranted," Roberts said. "The passion we showed in the shirt, especially in defence, was fantastic."

The win has brought an optimism which would have looked barmy just a few days ago. "We haven't been far off," said the Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips of the eight straight international reverses before this, thinking perhaps of last-minute calamities against Australia more than the defeats by Samoa and Argentina. "Who knows what can happen now? Anybody can beat anybody [in the Six Nations]. We're still the champions and we'll keep going to the end."

Next up for Wales, who lost 30-22 at home to Ireland in their Six Nations opener, are away trips to Italy and Scotland, followed by a potentially tumultuous conclusion against England in Cardiff. There was a sense when they began to run the ball in the final quarter in Paris that if they had done so earlier the win might have been more clear-cut. But that was probably a fallacy. Better for the Welsh to play rope-a-dope and allow the French to punch themselves out.

"You could see it in the French body language in the second half," said Phillips, who for a year and a half has played in France's Top 14 league for Bayonne. "They were blowing, they had their hands on their knees. For Wales, on the back of all the losses, it's up there as one of the biggest wins we've had."

That was quite a statement from a man with 74 caps and Grand Slams in 2008 and 2012 behind him. But the rugby played on a poor Stade de France pitch screamed of winning before everything. "It's a tough world, professional rugby," said Phillips. "One minute you're a hero, the next minute you're rubbish. We're still playing some good stuff – the ball-in-play time is high. But I think we were missing the blood and guts."

France's half-cocked idea of Freddy Michalak muddling through at fly-half without the licence to go wandering did not worry Wales' umbrella defence – the assistant coach Shaun Edwards reminded us his team have kept France try-less in the last three meetings – and the obvious threat of the 123kg (19st) centre Mathieu Bastareaud was not one France exploited, lacking enough clever offloads or changes of running angle to finish them off.

It left Wales with the gradual realisation they could halt the depressing run of losses to Australia – three Tests on tour last summer – Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand, Australia again and Ireland. The careworn expression of the interim coach, Rob Howley, in charge while Warren Gatland is on sabbatical with the Lions, turned to smiles. "The relief and confidence is so important and we can take that now to Italy," said Howley, who hailed the defensive work of the back row Justin Tipuric, Ryan Jones and Toby Faletau, leaving a dilemma if captain Sam Warburton is fit to return in Rome.

For Wales to retain their Six Nations title they will surely need to graft some variety on to Dan Biggar's punts downfield. The Ospreys fly-half had banana-kicked to nowhere shortly before his better cross-field effort in the 72nd minute bounced up for North to dive into the left corner. It was the 20-year-old North's 12th Wales try but only his third in 16 Tests. Cue more emotion: BBC Wales last night identified the fan who invaded the pitch to hug North as his father, Dave.

The roaming raids of Alex Cuthbert drew praise from a one-time prince of the French midfield, Denis Charvet. "Wales are a proper team, they play and fight for each other," said Charvet, now an analyst for TV and radio. "France's collective spirit is not there."

France: Penalties Michalak 2.

Wales: Try North; Conversion Halfpenny; Penalties Halfpenny 3.

France Y Huget; W Fofana, M Bastareaud, M Mermoz (F Fritz 75), B Fall (F Trinh-Duc 40); F Michalak, M Machenaud (M Parra 55); Y Forestier (V Debaty 50), D Szarzewski (B Kayser 50), N Mas (L Ducalcon 55), J Suta (R Taofifenua 65), Y Maestri, F Ouedraogo (D Chouly 51), T Dusautoir (capt), L Picamoles. Wales L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts (S Williams 76), G North; D Biggar, M Phillips (L Williams 70); G Jenkins (P James 37-40, 59), R Hibbard (K Owens 55), A Jones (C Mitchell 76), A Coombs, I Evans (L Reed 76), R Jones (capt, A Shingler 76), J Tipuric, T Faletau.

Referee G Clancy (Ireland).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London