FRANCE 19 WALES 20
Matthew Jones kept his cool his kick Wales to a third successive victory in this season's Six Nations championship and keep his side on course for a third Under 21 Grand Slam.
The Ospreys outside half had to do a Gavin Henson when he was called up to take a match winning kick with four minutes left to play in Aurillac. Moments earlier James Merriman's side had seen the lead they had held since the 28th minute wiped out by the prodigious boot of Jean-Baptiste Dambielle as the unbeaten French side rallied strongly. But with a full pack of forwards back on the field - No 8 Jonathan Mills was sin-binned in the 64th minute for a technical offence - the Welsh side mounted one last offensive and picked up a penalty 40 metres out from the home posts.
Just as Henson had done for the senior Welsh side against England earlier in the month, Jones stepped up to the mark and never looked like missing as he took his tally to 10 points on a bitterly cold night. Having outscored their hosts by two tries to one, and proved to be the more creative side, it was a victory that Wales thoroughly deserved. They now sit on top of the table with games against Scotland and Ireland to come.
"After the disappointing performance in Italy this was a wonderful response from the players to our criticism of them," said Wales Under 21 team manager Wayne Hall. "They did everything we asked of them and more. They didn't deserve to lose the game and they proved they had the guts to fight back and win it when they fell behind with five minutes to play.
"That showed the character and determination of this talented group of players and as a group the management are hoping this will be the launch pad for bigger and better things for this team."
When the Welsh team arrived in Aurillac the day before the game they found the pitch was covered in four inches of snow and that they were in the coldest town in France.
"The temperature dropped to -15 degrees centigrade the night before the game and we thought there was no chance the match would be played," admitted Hall. "But they got the snow ploughs and hot air machines out, cleared the ground and provided a perfect playing surface. It got colder as the game wore on, but there were no problems."
Wales lost Pontypridd centre Tom Riley with a blow to the head early in the game and as he departed so Jones kicked the first of his penalties to give the visitors the lead. The French were quick to respond and two penalties in the space of two minutes from Jones' opposite number, Dambielle, gave the home side the lead. Dambielle is the third highest scorer in the French Championship this season, behind David Skrela and Stephen Jones, and is building a big reputation at Auch.
Wales were solid throughout the night at the set-piece and it was from a Mills pick up at the base of a scrum on his own 22 that the first try came. Mills handed on to scrum half Wayne Evans who then linked with Jones. The outside half brought play back inside with a neat pass to Aled Brew and the wing burst clear to score at the posts. Jones converted to make it 10-6 at half-time and then added the extra points to a Mills try three minutes after the re-start to extend the Welsh lead to 11 points.
Dambielle launched the French fightback with a 48th minute drop goal and then kicked a third penalty midway through the half. Then came the only home try of the night when Lyons back row man Gerald Gambetta forced his way over. Dambielle's conversion gave the French the lead once again and set the Welsh a tough test. But they came through it with flying colours as they earned a penalty at a ruck in the home half and Jones made it three wins out of three for his side and 9-5 to Wales against the French in the series at this level.
France U21: Try: G Gambetta; Con: J-B Dambielle; Pens: J-B Dambielle 3; DG: J-B Dambielle.
Wales U21: Tries: A Brew, J Mills; Cons: M Jones 2; Pens: M Jones 2.
WALES U21: R Williams (Newport); A Brew (Ospreys), G Evans (Scarlets), T Riley (Pontypridd), C Czekaj (Cardiff); M Jones (Ospreys), W Evans (Carmarthen Quins); S Roberts (Bridgend), D Goodfield (Pontypridd), C Griffiths (Neath), A Wyn Jones (Swansea), I Evans (Neath/Ospreys), C Davies (Bridgend), J Merriman (Hartpury College/Gloucester, Captain), J Mills (Scarlets)
Replacements: D Hewitt (Cardiff) for Riley 13; R McAtee (Penzance) for W Evans 64; T Smith (Neath) for Davies 65; P Osbourne (Cardiff) for S Roberts 7