France piled on 22 points in the final 10 minutes of their opening Rugby World Cup match to beat Japan 47-21 after a stuttering start to their campaign.
REUTERS - France survived a second-half scare to get their World Cup campaign underway with a 47-21 win over a spirited Japan at the North Harbour Stadium on Saturday.
The French paid the price for some sloppy rugby and poor decision-making after halftime as Japan's "Brave Blossoms" took the game to them and at one stage closed to within four points.
In the end, though, tries from Julien Pierre, Francois Trinh-Duc, Vincent Clerc, Lionel Nallet, Pascal Pape and Morgan Parra secured them a bonus point win in Pool A, which also includes hosts New Zealand, Tonga and Canada.
Asian and Pacific champions Japan, overwhelmed and heavily penalised at the scrum, played some superb rugby with ball in hand and raised the biggest cheers of the evening for the two tries from flyhalf James Arlidge, who scored all of his team's points.
The Japanese fightback had looked unlikely at the start of the match when it looked like they would be blown away by French firepower.
Centre Fabrice Estebanez set the tone as early as the third minute when he burst through the Japanese midfield defence only to be denied a try by a last-ditch tackle.
The Tricolore-waving French fans did not have to wait long for the first score, however, with lock Pierre storming over the line two minutes later after a bulldozing charge from number eight Raphael Lakafia.
When flyhalf Trinh-Duc raced 50 metres to score France's second after an interception with just 12 minutes on the clock, it looked like the Japanese, who had only won one previous World Cup match, would be routed before halftime.
New Zealand-born Arlidge scored his team's first points with a penalty, however, and the Japanese restricted France to only two Dimitri Yachvili penalties to leave the score at 20-3 with 25 minutes gone.
Just after the half hour mark, a penalty kicked to touch in the corner was rewarded when Arlidge cut inside the defence to score his first try and, although winger Clerc grabbed one back for France four minutes later, Japan got another penalty to go into the break 25-11 down.
The French, playing in white, opened the second half with renewed purpose and power and were denied two tries by television reviews.
But, having weathered that storm, Arlidge opened 20 minutes of Japanese dominance when he skipped over the line to score his second try.
He added the extra points himself and, with France in disarray, kicked another penalty to cut the deficit to 25-21.
Another Yachvili penalty calmed the French nerves a little but Japan were throwing everything at their opponents now and it was only when lock Nallet stormed over with 10 minutes to go that order was properly restored.
Replacements Pape and Parra put a gloss on the scoreline with two more tries before the end but the French performance will not have main group rivals New Zealand quaking in their boots.
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