Jonathan Davies: Inches away from glory as video men fail to see full picture

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The Independent Online

More suffering for the Welsh. It was humiliation two weeks ago in Dublin and it was frustration yesterday against the French as a magnificent comeback by Wales in the closing stages fell inches short of grabbing a late victory in a tremendous match.

Twice in the last minutes, the referee David McHugh drew a square in the air to seek a judgement from the video official as the Welsh bashed their way over the French line. On both occasions, the answer was negative, but both were so close that you had to sympathise with Wales for coming so agonisingly near to compensating the nation for recent failures.

You could not argue with those particular decisions and, perhaps, on balance France deserved their victory but no one could dispute the vast improvement in Wales's performance and the promise it contained that their slump has bottomed out.

France have to admit that they had the enormous boost of a try that never was. When Aurélien Rougerie went over early in the second half he clearly touched the ball down before the tryline. I cannot understand how the Italian video official thought that it was a try.

Coming at that stage of the game it was a body blow to Wales, who were already without their skipper, Scott Quinnell, after he had been sin-binned for a late tackle. I have no quarrel with that decision. Scott was frustrated but there is no excuse for losing discipline in the way he did. His absence, plus the bad decision over the Rougerie try, were the turning points of the match.

They put Wales 31-19 down and placed them at the foot of what looked to be an unclimbable mountain. But anyone who thought that Welsh heads would go down would have been pleasantly surprised at the way they fought their way back into the game.

It was not easy because the French put a stranglehold on the game and controlled possession and territory so confidently. There did not seem to be any way that Wales could claw their way back, but they did so in a manner that made their pathetic display against Ireland seem a distant memory.

Nathan Budgett's try brought them within eight points and gave them the hope to mount their late offensive. I don't think Budgett touched the ball down properly but the referee did not offer that particular decision to the video official – just as well.

It set up a finale that eventually ended in disappointment but the very thought that Wales had come so close to winning might have been enough to send the fans home happy.

There were reminders of Welsh weaknesses when France were building up their first-half lead. The first of Tony Marsh's tries betrayed a lack of understanding in a back line that has not played together before. They didn't come up together and left a gate for the prop to go through to set up the gap that Marsh exploited easily. For the second try, they put width on the move and Raphael Ibanez came through to create the space that Marsh needed.

But you have to recognise the positives. There were no outstanding Welsh performances but they performed very much as a team determined to make their mark.

Andy Marinos played well, showing good vision and an ability to get over the advantage line. His execution was not all it should have been but he looked more comfortable as the game went on.

The caretaker coach, Steve Hansen, has every reason to be content with the progress he has made in less than two weeks after taking over from Graham Henry. And with two weeks to prepare his team to meet Italy he can be confident of getting them in better shape. He still has a few more cards to play. I would like to see Colin Charvis come back into the reckoning in the back row and there's also room for Gareth Thomas to get back in.

I am not sure there is time for Wales to improve enough to go and play England at Twickenham with any realistic hopes but they have to forget lofty ambitions and concentrate on continuing basic improvements.

As for France, they are capable of beating England in Paris in two weeks time. England are not easy for anyone but France will go home from Wales today with a growing confidence that they can stop their Grand Slam aims.

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