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Update: France withstood a ferocious second-half comeback from Argentina to win 23-21 in a tension-filled Rugby World Cup group opener on Saturday.
After Argentina rallied from 20-3 down at halftime to lead by one point, France flyhalf Camille Lopez landed a priceless dropped goal to restore the lead with 11 minutes remaining.
Argentina had a chance to win it with a last-minute, long-range penalty attempt, but a tactical switch proved the wrong move as Emiliano Boffelli replaced Benjamin Urdapilleta – who had landed the previous two penalties with assurance – and missed from 47 metres.
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Argentina then threw everyone forward in one final onslaught and players from both teams clashed as emotions erupted at the final whistle – overwhelming relief for France; bitter despair for Argentina.
Back in February, France led Wales 16-0 at halftime in the Six Nations and lost. Surely not deja-vu?
Lopez ensured not.
From some distance, he made a snap decision, swung his boot and his drop kick only just crept over the crossbar.
In a tough pool containing 2003 champion England, this was a massive win for France and a soul-crushing 10th straight defeat for Argentina. Argentina coach Mario Ledesma was aghast at his team’s abject first-half showing.
“We were late to everything, just running after them. There was a lack of urgency and too many missed tackles. On the backfoot, and we did not play like we need to play,” he said.
“In the second half we were playing on the front foot, physicality, driving mauls … and not missing tackles.” He also took a swipe at some of the late decisions by referee Angus Gardner, saying a penalty should have been awarded against No. 8 Louis Picamoles because he was offside intercepting an Argentina pass; that France players were warned by Gardner they risked a yellow card and didn’t get them, and that a France player failed to roll away from a tackle and stopped scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli getting to the ball.
“They were clear game-changing decisions,” Ledesma said.
France does not do cruise control anymore, even after fine tries from center Gael Fickou and bustling scrumhalf Antoine Dupont put Les Bleus in complete control in a first half which saw assured flyhalf Romain Ntamack convert both tries and add two penalties.
He then went from 4/4 to 4/5, missing a late penalty which would have given the French a five-point buffer. He had some nervous moments before Boffelli also missed his shot at goal.
Argentina took the early lead through flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez’s 14th-minute penalty, but was outplayed for the remainder ofthe first half. The second half was a contrast.
No. 8 Ortega Desio rose imperiously to cleanly take a lineout near the line and lock Guido Petti burrowed over for a converted try to start the comeback. France was getting smashed in the pack, and replacement Pumas hooker Julian Montoya pulled another try back in the 53rd followinga driving maul. Sanchez missed the conversion, his kicking was clearly off.
So Urdapilleta took over, and his penalties suddenly had Argentina 21-20 ahead with 12 minutes left.
Los Pumas fans were doing all the singing among the 44,000 fans at Tokyo Stadium, drowning out nervous French fans dreading recent history repeating itself.
In the end, the French fans had their voices back.
FRANCE 23 (Antoine Dupont, Gael Fickou tries Romain Ntamack 2 cons 2 pens Camille Lopez drop goal) ARGENTINA 21 (Julian Montoya,Guido Petti tries Nicolas Sanchez con Benjamin Urdapilleta 2, Sanchez pens) at Tokyo Olympic Stadium. Referee: Angus Gardner.
Credit: Source link