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    SPORT NEWS

    Grand Slam glory for Wales

    by Kieran O'Daly , 17 March 2012

    Wales coasted to their third Grand Slam in seven years under Warren Gatland with a 16-9 victory over a very poor France side at a raucous Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.


    An Alex Cuthbert try on 22 minutes backed by 11 points from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny was enough to see off a toothless French side whose points came from penalties from Dmitri Yachvili (2) and Lionel Beauxis.

    Les Bleus were looking to salvage some pride from what has been a dismal Six Nations campaign and coach Phillipe Saint-Andre made five changes to the team beaten by England in Paris a week ago, while skipper Sam Warburton returned to the Wales side in place of Justin Tipuric on the flank.

    Wales started brightly and spent much of the opening 10 minutes camped inside French territory, but it was the visitors who opened the scoring when Yachvili converted from 40 yards after Gethin Jenkins handled in the ruck on 10 minutes.

    After Rhys Priestland had hit the upright with a 40-yard penalty, Cuthbert put the home side in front on 22 minutes when he beat several tackles from just inside the French half to crash over close to the posts. Halfpenny added the extras and the Grand Slam dream was back on track.

    A Halfpenny penalty on the half hour saw the lead increased to seven but the full-back missed the chance to put further distance between the sides on the stroke of half-time when his penalty came back off the upright. However, Wales, although far from their fluent best, were showing the greater intent and were full value for their lead at the break.

    Beauxis reduced the arrears with a sweetly struck penalty immediately after the restart after some good work from substitute full-back Jean-Marcellin Buttin as France started the second period in the ascendancy, but Halfpenny replied from inside his own half on 52 minutes to restore the home side’s advantage.

    The game degenerated somewhat into a fairly scrappy affair after that, with both sides finding it difficult to impose themselves on the opposition. Perhaps the import of what they were about to achieve was stifling Welsh creativity, but the French simply weren't good enough to take advantage.

    Yachvili and Halfpenny exchanged penalties in the final ten minutes but, as the clock ticked down, the home side never looked in danger of losing.

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