Michalak rescues France against Samoa
PARIS (AFP) –
Rejuvenated fly-half Frederic Michalak scored 19 points as France twice came from behind to defeat Samoa 22-14 in their one-off Test on Saturday.
The win gave France a sweep of their autumn series matches after beating Australia 33-6 and Argentina 39-22.
But they did it the hard way before securing their first November treble in seven years.
“There were a few nerves in the early part of the match,” admitted Michalak, after guiding France to a third win in three meetings with Samoa.
“We thought we could make the difference late in the game, we saw them moving a lot less. But it was hard, they were dominating us.
“Our goal was to win three matches. In the first two, I think we surprised a lot of people in the way we dominated our opponents. But this game today showed that we still have work to do.”
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said his team had achieved their target.
“Mission accomplished. We had the objective of winning three matches and we have done it. It was a victory for courage and unity,” said Saint-Andre.
Samoa, buoyed by their shock 26-19 win over Six Nations champions Wales last weekend, had stunned a half-full stadium by taking a 7-0 lead on the 15-minute mark.
Prop Census Johnston, who plays his club rugby with French Top 14 side Toulouse, broke the French line with a chip through a gaping hole with supporting full-back Robert Lilomaiava just keeping the ball in play.
He shrugged off Brice Dulin’s tackle to feed skipper and winger David Lemi to score beneath the posts with fly-half Tusi Pisi kicking the conversion.
But France were level just three minutes later thanks to a fine individual try from Michalak.
The fly-half, enjoying a renaissance in his international career, charged down an attempted clearance by Pisi and ran 30 metres to score before adding the conversion for 7-7.
Five minutes from the interval, Johnston was penalised for an infringement at the ruck and scrum-half Morgan Parra succeeded with a penalty from 45 metres out to make the score 10-7 with Pisi squandering a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Samoa stunned France again after just two minutes of the second half when lock Joe Tekori barrelled over, making the line for a score which went to the video referee. Pisi converted for a 14-10 lead.
But errors and indiscipline slowly crept into the Samoans’ game and that was the cue for Michalak to complete his evening’s master-class.
He kicked four penalties from four attempts — the last of which in the 78th minute went in off the post — as France celebrated a not entirely convincing win.
Samoa coach Stephen Betham admitted his players had paid a heavy price for a series of poor decisions.
“It was a tough battle. We played well, scrummaged well. We had our chances but made some bad decisions.”