WALES saved their worst until last but still managed to beat France to earn the tag of the best of the rest in the Six Nations.

An early Liam Williams try and nine points from the right boot of Leigh Halfpenny were enough to take a 14-13 triumph that saw them move back above Scotland, who had earlier beaten Italy in Rome.

However, it could have easily have been fourth spot after Les Bleus bossed the majority of the second half only for fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc to miss a simple penalty in the closing stages.

That rather summed up a stinker of a game as the Six Nations finished with a whimper, the Welsh and French making errors galore while the Irish got stuck into their Grand Slam champagne.

Nonetheless, second spot is a fairly good return for Gatland’s men, who enjoyed a clean sweep on Cardiff soil, missed a chance at Twickenham and could have few complaints in Dublin, even if they could have burgled it.

Wales have increased their squad depth with a number of fringe players taking their chances, notably Dragons captain Cory Hill in the second row and flankers Aaron Shingler and Josh Navidi.

They may not have finished with a flourish against the hefty French but at least they could reflect on a glut of errors in a victory rather than a defeat.

Les Bleus struck first when fly-half Trinh-Duc slotted a peach of a drop goal in the fourth minute but they then gifted Wales a shocker of a first score.

Dan Biggar’s restart was undercooked but the visitors dithered to allow it to bounce and go 10 metres for captain Alun Wyn Jones to claim before Scott Williams’ grubber bounced awkwardly over the flapping Tridh-Duc for wing Liam Williams to score the simplest of tries.

Full-back Halfpenny missed the conversion but banged over a pair of penalties for an 11-3 lead after 15 minutes.

France were being hindered by poor discipline but were right back in it with a try of the tournament contender on 22 minutes.

They burst down the right from 10 metres inside their own half to the Welsh 22, hooker Adrien Pelissi and flanker Wenceslas Lauret prominent, before the ball was swiftly spun left for Gael Fickou, the Toulouse speedster who had been involved in the start of the move, to finish off under the posts.

Maxime Machenaud’s conversion was a routine one for 11-10; a Halfpenny penalty was trickier on 31 minutes but he bisected the posts for 14-10.

Machenaud had a chance from the tee with the final action of the half, after Liam Williams was rather harshly penalised when clearing out a ruck, but the scrum-half pushed his tricky effort to ensure the gap stayed at four points.

That almost grew in the 43rd minute when number eight Taulupe Faletau made a searing break from halfway to the 22 only for scrum-half Gareth Davies to fail to grasp his inside pass.

It was a moment to sum up a game that mixed the promising with the shoddy.

France inched closer through the right boot of Machenaud after 49 minutes and Welsh shoddiness helped to prompt ‘Allez Les Bleus’ from the sizeable travelling contingent.

The visitors were bossing possession but it was a hideous, shapeless game.

Wales were probably fortunate to still have their noses in front as the game entered its final quarter and they were even more lucky to still have the lead when Trinh-Duc, on duties from the tee after Machenaud went off, to somehow miss from straight in front of the posts with 12 minutes left after a Liam William breakdown offence.

It was all France and it took a fine last-man tackle by Halfpenny to retain the lead when wing Remy Grosso was worked free down the left.

Wales finally got a foothold in the closing stages but were unable to ease their nerves with a score of any kind, French skipper Mathieu Bastareaud leading the way with some sterling defensive work.

But Les Bleus didn’t get back within striking range and they had to be content with finishing above England, while Wales could reflect on being closest to Ireland… even if the gap seems alarmingly large.

Wales: L Halfpenny, G North, S Williams, H Parkes, L Williams, D Biggar, G Davies; R Evans (N Smith 63), K Owens (E Dee 68), T Francis (S Lee 63), C Hill (B Davies 68, AW Jones (captain), J Tipuric (A Shingler 55), J Navidi, T Faletau.

Scorers: try – L Williams; penalties – L Halfpenny (3)

France: B Fall, G Fickou, M Bastareaud (captain), G Doumayrou, R Grosso, F Trinh-Duc (L Beauxis 70), M Machenaud (B Couilloud 61); J Poirot (D Priso 59), A Pelissie (C Chat 50), C Gomes Sa (R Slimani 50), P Gabrillagues (B le Roux 70), S Vahaamahina, W Lauret (P Gabrillagues 76), Y Camara (M Babillot 25), M Tauleigne.

Scorers: try – G Fickou; conversion – M Machenaud; penalty – M Machenaud; drop goal – F Trinh-Duc

Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)

Attendance: 74,169

Argus star man: Taulupe Faletau