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September 7th, 2007
France face an early World Cup exit after suffering a 17-12
defeat to Argentina on Friday night.
It was the Pumas fifth win against the Tricolores in their
last six meetings, and arguably the most important.
Argentina had all the ball in the first half and should have
been further ahead than 17-9 at the break. The French
totally dominated the possession stakes in the second 40,
but could not make it count as the brave Pumas defence stood
While the Argentineans had tears in their eyes during the
singing of the national anthems, they were composed and
clinical from the moment David Skrela got the sixth World
Argentina’s forwards quickly assumed control, poaching
France’s first line-out and exposing the hosts around the
fringes. They made effective use of the rolling maul and
dominated the scrums, with the exception of one 5m effort at
the end of the first quarter when France claimed a critical
The selection of Juan Martin Hernandez at flyhalf suggested
the Pumas would adopt an expansive approach, but apart from
the odd venture out wide they stuck to their traditional
10-man game. Hernandez and inside centre Felipe Contepomi
kicked countless up-and-unders, while there were four
unsuccessful drop goal attempts.
The hosts, in general, were rattled by the ferocity of the
Pumas attack. On the rare occasions they did get their hands
on the ball, they either knocked on or failed to make the
The Pumas had 70% territory and possession in the first
half, but almost failed to capitalise. They led just 9-6
after half an hour before France gifted them the first try
of the World Cup. Yet another Pumas up-and-under had bounced
into the hands of the French who counterattacked from inside
their half. However, Remy Martin’s pass was intercepted and
sent wide to Pumas fullback Ignacio Corleto, who hesitated
for a split second before backing himself and sprinting over
the line. Contepomi’s conversion hit the upright, but at
14-6 the capacity crowd feared the worst.
Contepomi’s fourth penalty gave the Pumas an 11-point lead,
but Skrela kicked his third just before the break to keep
France in the game.
The Tricolores made an impressive start to the second half
and looked set to score when a driving maul saw them
progress from the Pumas 10m line to within a metre of the
tryline. Argentina appeared to have first collapsed the maul
and then come in from the side, yet referee Tony Spreadbury
surprisingly failed to produce a yellow card. A minute
later, the Pumas were awarded a penalty and relieved the
Spreadbury continued to frustrate the French, calling
“advantage over” when the hosts turned over possession
seconds after a Pumas knock on. The Englishman was also
lenient on the Pumas at ruck time, when there were hands all
over the ball, and at the maul, when players came in from
When the French finally did get a kickable penalty, Skrela
hooked it past the right-hand upright. But he made amends on
the 60-minute mark to bring France within five, before being
substituted by Frederic Michalak.
With 10 minutes to go, Michalak fluffed a critical penalty,
prompting the introduction of goal-kicking scrumhalf Jean-Baptiste
Elissalde. But it was Contepomi who had another two shots at
goal, including one on the stroke of full time. Both missed
That resulted in an anxious last movement for the Pumas but
their defence, as it had all game, stood firm.
France – Penalties: David Skrela (4).
Argentina – Try: Ignacio Corleto. Penalties: Felipe
By Simon Borchardt | Keo.co.za