Clerc double inspires French to win over Pumas
LILLE, France - France won their second successive test on Saturday following up victory over the Australians with a deserved 39-22 win over traditional bogey team Argentina here.
The French outscored their opponents by three tries to one including a double by Vincent Clerc, who moved onto 34 for his country, passing coach Philippe Saint-Andre’s total of 32.
The Toulouse flyer’s brace came at an opportune moment as the Pumas – who had beaten France in eight of their last 12 meetings – had stormed into an early 13-3 lead.
However another try by his team-mate Yannick Nyanga in the first-half and 24 points from the boot of the mercurial Frederic Michalak rounded off a terrific win for the French.
France will try and make it three wins from three with their final match against Samoa next Saturday at the Stade de France and all but assure themselves of a top four seeding for December’s draw for the 2015 World Cup.
“We got off to a bad start, which is a bad habit of ours,” said 31-year-old Clerc.
“However, we fought back and turned it round after 15 minutes. We could have scored a few more tries but we will take this.
“Will I ever play again after passing Philippe’s mark? I hope so but I will have to talk to him!” he added laughing.
Michalak had opened the scoring in the third minute with a crisply taken penalty but the Pumas replied in style a couple of minutes later.
Marcelo Bosch ran in to touch down after a great break in midfield by Nicolas Sanchez and some poor French tackling saw Gonzalo Tiesi offload to the Biarritz back, and Bosch playing his 18th international went under the posts to touch down.
Sanchez converted and then added a penalty – French No8 Louis Picamoles showed his frustration by subsequently tackling the fly-half when he was still in the air and received a ticking off from referee Steve Walsh.
Sanchez’s faultless night with the boot continued as he slotted another penalty – Walsh penalising the French for offside – in the 14th minute for a 13-3 Pumas lead.
With the crowd starting to boo the French produced a brilliant try, which involved among others man of the match Picamoles and Maxime Mermoz before the latter’s wild pass inside had the good fortune to be picked up by Clerc.
Michalak converted to pull France to within three points of their opponents.
Clerc racked up number 34 minutes later as he ran onto Florian Fritz’s splendid grubber kick, which caught the Argentine defence napping, and went in under the posts unopposed – Michalak converted to give France a 17-13 lead.
Nyanga then continued his dynamic form since ending a five year international hiatus last week against Australia – as he picked up the ball at a ruck and ran from outside the 22, brushing aside two tackles, and although Juan Imhoff got to him his momentum carried him over the line for his fifth try for his country.
Michalak, who had been having treatment for a sore left shoulder, converted for 24-13.
Sanchez reduced the deficit to eight points four minutes into the second-half as he added another penalty but Michalak relied with a drop goal two minutes later for 27-16.
The game’s hectic pace slackened and Sanchez added another penalty with just over 20 minutes remaining to make it 27-19 but Michalak restored the 11 point lead on the hour mark with yet another penalty.
Sanchez kept the Pumas in touching distance as he put over a drop goal for 30-22 with 14 minutes left but the metronomic Michalak added yet another penalty for 33-22 and extended the lead with eight minutes remaining with another penalty.
There was a worrying sight as with seven minutes remaining Pumas wing Horacio Agulla had to be stretchered off after a sickening clash of heads with Mermoz, who emerged unscathed.