Wales slump to disappointing defeat
Wales failed to take advantage of England's Grand Slam misery as they suffered a meltdown of their own to slump from second to fourth in this season's final RBS 6 Nations table following a 28-9 defeat to France.
Needing to beat France by 27 points - or 26 if they finished with the competition's best points difference or tryscoring record - to land their third title in seven years, Warren Gatland's men fell apart at the Stade de France to suffer their heaviest championship defeat for five years.
Lionel Nallet scored twice for the home side, Vincent Clerc also crossed and Morgan Parra kicked their other points as they made amends for their humiliating defeat to Italy by finishing runners-up behind England.
James Hook and Parra exchanged early penalties but Wales dominated territory and possession during a high-tempo opening quarter that just lacked the finishing touch.
Parra put France ahead with an angled penalty, yet Wales came closest to the game's opening try when wing Leigh Halfpenny looked to have breached the French defence. Slick passing by the Wales backs gave Halfpenny an outside angle, but French fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc managed an ankle-tap tackle that sent Halfpenny sprawling.
Wales were not stretched defensively until just before the interval when they made a hash of a steepling kick just outside their own 22, and Nallet powered over on a 20-metre charge to hand France an 11-3 half-time advantage.
Hook cut the gap through an early second-half penalty, only for his blunder to then gift France and Nallet a second try. Hook's attempted clearance was charged down by Nallet's second-row partner Julien Pierre, and his pass enabled the Racing Metro forward to power over.
Parra added the extras, then kicked a penalty to cancel out Hook's third successful strike as France looked under no obvious pressure entering the final quarter 21-9 ahead.
And their cause was assisted when Hook was sin-binned, with France making Wales pay almost immediately when Trinh-Duc chipped over their defence and Clerc finished off a clinical move.
Parra's conversion completed the scoring, leaving Wales with plenty of work to do as they head into the summer and pre-World Cup games against the Barbarians, England (twice) and Argentina.