The French leave the competition in the quarter-finals on a short defeat (20-19), after having long the game under control. Until the expulsion of Sebastien Vahaamahina for a nudge.
Five times, six times the two big screens have passed idle. And five times, six times the stage booed the bad gesture. Because the action came from a French but especially because it deserved hardly anything else: a sodomy as inexplicable nudge, on the part of Sebastien Vahaamahina, right in the jaw of Aaron Wainwright!
France then had the advantage in score (19-10). And still thirty minutes to hold in the second half against the Welsh, Sunday, October 20, in Oita (Japan), in this stadium roof closed where the French hopes of qualifying for the semifinals of the World Cup have still managed to fly away.
Final score, half an hour later: defeat of France (20-19) and elimination in the quarter-finals of the competition. Its lowest level, as in 1991 and 2015, at the previous World Cup. But as the elimination of four years ago left little room for regrets (62-13 against New Zealand), as much as today is something hopeless. "The best team lost today", according to the Welsh coach, Warren Gatland.
In press conference, first question to Guilhem Guirado: a cruel match? A sigh, two little sentences: " That's the word. That's the word. " The hooker was playing his last match as captain of the XV of France, " (Estimating) and (Hoping) have eaten all the black bread of the national selection.
Three French tests in half an hour
There is something remarkable about this team, terribly remarkable: this propensity to lose the matches that it seemed good to win. Because the meeting had started well. Or rather: it had not started yet that the Welsh already announced the package of Jonathan Davies, one hour of the kickoff. A package so sudden that the two screens of Oita stadium still announced the establishment of three-quarter center, a key player, shortly before the game.
The meeting had started very well for Vahaamahina too. The second-line French scored the first try of the game from the fifth minute on a collective push. Before that of Charles Ollivon, barely four minutes later, who enjoyed a beautiful succession of passes as we would like to see more often. The Blues scored a third test half-hour game by Vakatawa, taking advantage of a temporary numerical superiority, the Welsh Moriarty having been punished with a yellow card shortly after coming into play.
But there was this card, red this one, against Vahaamahina. This logical decision allowed the Welsh to return the match as the French hopes. Unable to score any point in the second half, the XV of France saw the game definitely escape him just six minutes from the end.
Two points lost to the poles
New idle, this time to confirm the validity of the second Welsh test of the match: finally, no forward, confirmed Moriarty test, and transformation of Dan Biggar successful, the opener tenured despite his two recent concussions.
The large screens then show a disillusioned Roman Ntamack, hands on his face, on the sideline. The young opener had left the field at halftime, giving up his place to Camille Lopez. Maybe it is looping in loop, at this moment of the match, his bad luck with the foot: a transformation failed after the first French test, then another penalty finally striking a pole.
Faced with Welsh yet far from impressing, the story is repeated for this team in France unable to finish matches as it begins. But also for Sebastien Vahaamahina. In February, on an unsteady pass, the Clermont player had already allowed the Welsh to return to the match at the Six Nations Tournament.
At Saint-Denis the French also led at half-time (16-0). And they also lost on arrival (24-19). An encouraging defeat, according to the formula. Almost as raging, in fact, as this Sunday, in the already dark sky of Oita.