France hold off Argentina in error-strewn clash
Having been outmuscled and outwitted by Argentina in seven of their last 10 encounters, France set the record straight when they took on the Pumas in Montpellier on Saturday by walking away with a 15-9 victory.
AFP - Inspired by the boot of Morgan Parra, France took revenge for a 41-13 Buenos Aires summer thrashing by edging out Argentina 15-9 in Saturday's one-off autumn Test at the Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier
Coach Marc Lievremont had demanded the record be put straight and a performance more solid than last weekend's shoddy 34-12 win over Fiji in Nantes.
In rainy conditions in the deep south of France, Lievremont got the result - if not entirely the performance, he craved as four Parra penalties and a Damien Traille drop goal secured the win.
Felipe Contepomi sent over a trio of penalties for the visitors who nonetheless in the slithery conditions never looked like turning in the festival of rugby they had delivered the last time they faced their rivals.
Parra gave the hosts a 10th-minute lead only for Contepomi to belt over a 40-metre riposte six minutes later following a knock-on by Aurelien Rougerie.
France, who were largely dominating the scrum in the opening quarter, retook the lead with Parra sweeping over two penalties in six minutes to send the hosts in 9-3 to the good at the interval.
The 35,000 crowd were further cheered with Traille's drop goal nine minutes after the restart and Parra ultimately gave the Argentinians too much to do when he made it 15-6 on the hour.
Contepomi slammed over his third penalty almost immediately but any hopes that would spark a revival proved unfounded as the French made it 32 wins in 44 outings against the men in sky blue and white - most of whom earn their club corn in France.
Despite that strong record, France had won only two and lost seven of their previous nine meetings against a country which in recent times has become something of a 'bete noire' for them.
Lievremont said a win was a win, however hard-fought and unspectacular against a rival who "bent, but did not break."
He explained: "I'll take the win while retaining the feeling that the lads' efforts in the first half did not receive sufficient reward. We repeatedly forced the Argentinians into fouls without securing a concrete gain. But in the first half in defence we left them barely a few crumbs" to feed on.
Rougerie noted that a high incidence of knock-ons were proof that "we have to concentrate more - these are details we must work on."
Had Martin Rodriguez managed to pull off a long-distance effort before the break the Pumas might just have pinched a result but the miss inspired the French to believe their stout defence, the mainstay of their Six Nations success, would see them home and so it proved, while the ball-carrying skills of Sebastien Chabal were an additional factor.
Contepomi had helped himself to 31 points in Buenos Aires but here he was well-marshalled in the main by Julien Pierre, who brought him down to nip a promising attack in the bud in the 13th minute before Thomas Domingo saved the day to end a breakaway ten minutes after the restart.
The French will now hope to make it three wins on a roll in this autumn series when they go up against Australia next Saturday at the Stade de France.