Wales' 16-9 win over France in Cardiff clinches 2012 Six Nations title
Warren Gatland's team clinch the Grand Slam after five successive victories
England's chances of retaining title end before kickoff of final game
Scotland condemned to bottom place after losing away to Italy
Wales avenged last year’s heartbreaking Rugby World Cup semifinal defeat by France on Saturday, clinching the Six Nations title with a 16-9 home victory that left Warren Gatland’s team with a perfect record in this season’s competition.
Having lost 9-8 to Les Bleus in October having played most of the match with 14 men after captain Sam Warburton was sent off, the scene was set in Cardiff for the final round of the northern hemisphere’s top rugby tournament.
A converted first-half try to winger Alex Cuthbert proved the difference as both sides kicked three penalties in a hard-fought match, with the result ending England’s slim chance of retaining the title before Stuart Lancaster’s team kicked off against Ireland in Saturday’s final match.
Wales clinched a third title since the tournament was expanded to six teams in 2000, with all three being unbeaten Grand Slams.
It was New Zealander Gatland’s second success as coach, with his first coming in 2008.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the French, they made it very tough for us,” Warburton said. “But we won at the end of the day and that’s what counts.”
The match started with a minute’s silence for Wales’$2 1976 Grand Slam-winning captain Mervyn Davies, who passed away on Friday aged 65.
Dimitri Yachvili kicked World Cup runners-up France into an 11th-minute lead but 21-year-old Cuthbert stepped past the visiting defense and dotted down under the posts.
Leigh Halfpenny converted, then kicked his first penalty to make it 10-3 at halftime – and it could have been more if his effort before the whistle had not hit the upright.
But the fullback made amends with a fine effort from halfway after the break, restoring the seven-point advantage following a penalty by Lionel Beauxis.
The French had capitalized on Warburton’s halftime exit due to injury and again closed to four points through another Yachvili penalty, but Halfpenny made it safe again after replacement Francois Trinh-Duc illegally threw the ball into the crowd when he was bundled into touch.
Italy avoided finishing bottom of the table after earlier winning 13-6 against visiting Scotland, who were left with the tournament’s wooden spoon following five defeats.