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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019

France dance dangerously close to defeat after glorious opening against Argentina

Argentina muscled their way back after a magnificent first 40 from France.

France 23
Argentina 21

IT WAS FITTING that it all ended in an ugly scrap after the final whistle. Because the tension between these two sides was being ratcheted up further and further with each passing minute.

japan-rugby-wcup-france-argentina Source: Eugene Hoshiko

Both France and Argentina almost looked set to bow out meekly at one point, yet they gritted their teeth and got their claws into a gripping finale of missed penalties, drop-goals and, ultimately, a magnificent comeback that fell just short.

The grandstand finish of Camille Lopez’ 69th-minute drop-goal and a long-range miss from Emiliano Bofelli was a long way removed from the free-flowing one-way traffic of the first half.

The first 40 was French flair at its finest. Damien Penaud announced himself on the world stage with his powerful carries and footwork that left defenders floundering.

The wing’s break on 17 minutes came off a marvellous pass from Maxime Medard and France completed the move by going back to the left where Virimi Vakatawa combined with Gael Fickou.

Penaud provided the assist for the second French try for Antoine Dupont, but the move was all about French attacking DNA as their handling skills allowed them to exploit narrow channels on the right.

Romain Ntamack was unerringly accurate from the tee and added two penalties to his conversions to put France in a 20-3 half-time lead.

japan-rugby-wcup-france-argentina Penaud makes a break as Pumas flounder. Source: Christophe Ena

And then everything changed.

Argentina went to their traditional strength in the pack and yielded a 41st minute try for Guido Petti.

As the South Americans mounted pressure on Les Bleus, they were unfortunate to find a referee in Angus Gardner who was reluctant to punish persistent infringement. 

No cards came against France, but replacement hooker grounded a second maul try on 53 minutes and the Puma was well and truly amongst the pigeons.

As Penaud went off with concussion and Argentina continued to grow in stature, there were mutterings about France’s late loss to Ireland in 2018 and Wales’ comeback from 16-0 in Paris earlier this year. Benjamin Urdapilleta arrived on the field to pull Argentina to 20-18 and then into an improbable lead with 12 minutes remaining.

Having laid a finger on defeat wedged in the jaws of victory, though, France, suddenly roused themselves and responded immediately – a snap drop-goal from Lopez that flew in the face of momentum.

japan-rugby-wcup-france-argentina France celebrate Dupont's try. Source: Eugene Hoshiko

The drama didn’t stop there. Ntamack, so assured in the first 40, missed a chance to extend the lead. And Boffeli was handed the tee for what would have been a heroic last-gasp penalty from 50 metres. 

It veered wide and France celebrated until they found out they still had to play out the final seconds. Final seconds that inevitably ended in a brawl.

Gavan Casey is joined by Andy Dunne and, from Japan, Murray Kinsella ahead of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup opener against Scotland.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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