France beat Boks 20-13

France kept world champion South Africa scoreless in the second half to come back and win their rugby Test 20-13 on Friday.

After trailing 13-11 at the interval, France defended
brilliantly and conceded only one penalty chance to the Springboks.

In remaining unbeaten at home against South Africa since 1997, Julien Dupuy gave France the lead for good in the 49th minute with his third penalty. He added a fourth with 20 minutes to go and his late replacement, Morgan Parra, slotted a fifth.

At full-time, the French received a standing ovation from the crowd and did a lap of honour.

”It does bode well for the future. Things are starting to take shape, this match would have pleased our glorious ancestors,” France coach Marc Lievremont said. ”It is a satisfaction that we were able to control the game, in terms of our kicking and
handling. We could even have had two or three more tries if we’d finished off our chances.”

Captain John Smit scored the Boks’ only try through their forward might, but France immediately responded with a stylish backline move finished by Vincent Clerc.

Boks coach Peter de Villiers said the French deserved the win, but was furious with the hosts after the South African anthem was sung poorly, with the singer at times pausing and seeming to
struggle to remember the words.

”We were annoyed with the fact that the French disrespect our anthem. They didn’t get somebody there who really knows [it] and show any respect to it,” he said. ”Getting to the game, you can’t play the game without the ball. We allowed them on to the ball a lot. They won the contest on the floor and in the contact situations we lost too many balls. They were the better side on the night.”

Talk before the Test had centered around French criticisms of the Boks being overly aggressive in view of some violent incidents during the British and Irish Lions tour over the summer.

Within 30 seconds Bakkies Botha and opposite lock Lionel Nallet were involved in a tussle — the first of several for the huge Bok.

”Of course it was a very hard game, you have to match the aggression of players like Botha and [Victor] Matfield, and I think we did that out there,” France captain Thierry Dusautoir said.

”We’re carrying on from the New Zealand [win in June] and we have managed to keep the same team spirit from the summer tour.”

Matfield, who also criticised the rendition of the anthem, praised the French for inflicting only the second loss of the year on South Africa.

”They had more intensity than us, they were one second quicker to everything,” Matfield said. ”It’s about turnovers, that’s where they won it really.”

France, starting seven Toulouse players on their home ground, applied early pressure and led when Dupuy converted a 35m penalty in windy conditions.

South Africa was lucky to escape a sinbin when hooker Bismarck du Plessis floored winger Cedric Heymans with a late tackle, but referee Wayne Barnes did not flinch.

Morne Steyn’s first penalty made it 3-3 and the Boks moved ahead when the flyhalf added a drop goal soon after.

Following a scrappy passage of play, Boks winger Bryan Habana found some rare space on the blindside but couldn’t make ground.

Matfield, playing his 90th Test, came off after 20 minutes for treatment but returned 10 minutes later.

The Boks were on top after Steyn’s drop goal and gradually pegged France back in its own half. The French dealt poorly with a lineout and Smit went over for a converted try in the 29th, the captain’s sixth international try.

Apart from Smit’s try, Lievremont said France ”kept the damage to a minimum against what is probably one of the best lineouts in the world”.

France produced a superb answer, with Nallet carrying the ball to within metres of the Boks’ line. Midfielders Yann David and Maxime Mermoz combined well to free space for Francois Trinh-Duc to send Clerc diving over in the right corner to make it 13-8.

Botha continued to irritate the French and pinned down prop Nicolas Mas following a scrum, standing over him and pushing his face.

But South Africa was punished near the end of the first half when Clerc kicked ahead and Steyn fouled him off the ball. Dupuy nailed the penalty to send the French into the break just two points behind the Tri-Nations champions.

Dupuy missed a penalty early in the second half, but found his range with the next to put France 14-13 ahead after 49 minutes, and from there France took control.

The home crowd roared in appreciation when Sebastien Chabal warmed up, and loud cheers went up when Chabal and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski went on for William Servat and Nallet.

Flanker Imanol Harinordoquy limped off soon after holding his left leg and Julien Bonnaire came on for the last 25 minutes.

Steyn missed a fairly easy penalty from 25m and Dupuy converted his fourth penalty from close range to make it 17-13 with 20 minutes remaining.

Parra went on for Dupuy and missed an easy penalty in front of the posts after number eight Ryan Kankowski was sin-binned, as the Boks
lost their composure after failing to gain any ground despite having a far heavier pack than Lievremont’s team.

Parra made amends with a penalty in the closing stages, again right in front of the posts, to complete a convincing win, their third straight against South Africa. – Sapa-AP

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