Christophe Ena

France pull away late on, but were given a real scare by Canada this evening

France pulled away late on, but never looked convincing.

France 41

Canada 18

THEY PULLED AWAY late on, but it was far from convincing.

17-0 and cruising, France switched off for large parts of the middle third in Milton Keynes, allowing Canada reduvce the gap to just six points at one stage of the second half.

But late tries for Pascal Pape and Remy Grosso, and perfection from the boot of Frederic Michalak ensured that France would avoid a shock defeat in the pool for the third World Cup in a row.

France needed less than five minutes to make the breakthrough and it was a mix of ridiculous Canadian defence and sublime French attacking. Frederic Michalak broke through two would-be tacklers and handed off a third, before a gorgeous offload to Fofana sent the Clermont centre to the line.

Some French indiscipline gave Canada territory, but Eddy Ben Arous began to turn on the heat in the scrum, and it was the setpiece that allowed Michalak make it 10-0. His 127th World Cup point making him their highest ever scorer at the tournament, overtaking Thierry Lacroix.

Some lengthy stoppages stalled the French momentum, but the Michalak-Fofana partnership almost yielded a second try pn 25 minutes. Another glorious show and go from Michalak sent him through, but with Canadian defenders closing he played a chip into midfield for the onrushing Fofana.

Fofana looked certain to score as the ball bounced up into his hands, but spilled the ball at the decisive moment.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool D - France v Canada - stadium:mk PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

They didn’t have to wait long for their second try though. The maul has been a lethal weapon in this World Cup, and hooker Guilhem Guirado was the lucky one to touch down, Michalak’s conversion sending France 17-0 ahead.

But out of nowhere, Canada came flying back. Ciaran Hearn made a stunning catch straight from the kickoff, and after building the phases they sent the ball wide to the ever-lethal DTH van der Marwe, who left the French defence for dead to shuffle over.

And within minutes they had their second try. Hooker Aaron Carpenter forced his way over the line, but Nathan Hirayama couldn’t reduce the gap to three with his conversion.

Canada needed to get to the half time whistle, but a moment of indiscipline left them deflated.

France kicked to touch touch five metres out, and the suddenly prolific Rabah Slimani found the tryline, his second try of the tournament.

Michalak’s fourth successful kick of the day made it a 12 point game, as France got into the changing rooms with a much healthier looking lead.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool D - France v Canada - stadium:mk PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

It was Canada that struck first from kick-off in the second half. The French made a mess of the restart and followed it up with a penalty at the scrum, giving Hirayama an easy job reducing the gap to nine points.

And with 15 minutes played in the half, the gap was down to six, more French indiscipline giving Hirayama the chance to cut the gap further.

France tried to put Canada out of sight, but a superb piece of defence from Evan Olmstead caused Mathieu Bastareaud to knock on the ball as the tryline beckoned.

Michalak kicked France back into a nine point lead midway through the second half, and with Canadian legs tiring, Pascal Pape squeezed over for the bonus point try.

Once more Michalak converted, making it six kicks from six, and most crucially, turning it into a 16 point ball game.

There was still time for Remy Grosso to cross for a try on his French debut, touching the ball down a fraction of a second before his foot slammed off the sideline.

Morgan Parra’s conversion wrapped up what was ultimately a far from convincing 23-point win.

France scorers:
Tries: Wesley Fofana, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani, Pascal Pape, Remy Grosso (1 each)
Conversions: Frederic Michalak (4), Morgan Parra (1)
Penalties: Frederic Michalak (2)
Canada scorers:
Tries: DTH van der Merwe, Aaron Carpenter (1 each)
Conversions: Nathan Hirayama (1)
Penalties: Nathan Hirayama (2)
France: Scott Spedding; Remy Grosso, Mathieu Bastareaud, Wesley Fofana, Brice Dulin; Frederic Michalak, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Eddy Ben Arous, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani; Pascal Pape, Yoann Maestri; Thierry Dusautoir (captain) Bernard Le Roux, Damien Chouly.

Replacements: Benjamin Kayser, Vincent Debaty, Nicolas Mas, Yannick Nyanga, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Morgan Parra, Remi Tales, Alexandre Dumoulin.

Canada: Matt Evans; Phil Mackenzie, Ciaran Hearn, Nick Blevins, DTH van der Merwe; Nathan Hirayama, Phil Mack; Hubert Buydens, Aaron Carpenter, Doug Wooldridge; Brett Beukeboom, Jamie Cudmore; Kyle Gilmour, Richard Thorpe, Tyler Ardron (captain).

Replacements: Ray Barkwill, Djustice Sears-Duru, Andrew Tiedemann, Evan Olmstead, Nanyak Dala, Gordon McRorie, Harry Jones, Conor Trainor.

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