Argentina showed the benefit of their Rugby Championship experience as they dominated France to claim an 18-13 rugby Test upset victory at the Stade de France.
Five eighth Nicolas Sanchez kicked three of his team’s four dropped goals plus two penalties and made a last-gasp try-saving tackle on French fullback Scott Spedding as Argentina finished their northern tour on a high after a dour struggle.
Argentina, after notching a first Rugby Championship win over Australia, had fallen flat early in Europe with a loss to Scotland and narrow win over Italy.
But they unleashed a top-shelf effort to earn a fifth win in their last nine matches against France, dominating in almost every aspect and aligning an almost impenetrable light-blue and white wall in front of France’s runners.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said his side lost the match in the first half hour, at the end of which they trailed 15-0.
“We weren’t surprised by Argentina’s performance, during the week we told the players that they (Argentina) have the level of a southern hemisphere side,” he said.
“The only thing was that we were totally absent in the first half hour. We were dominated at the breakdown and in terms of dynamism.”
The hosts may have gone into the clash brimming with confidence following wins over Fiji (40-15) and Australia (29-26) but they were given a tactical lesson in the first half.
Sanchez and inside centre Juan Martin Hernandez controlled the game with precise kicking, while the tourists rumbled well with their forwards.
They needed only a minute to force the first penalty as France were penalised for holding on, and Sanchez kicked the first three points before adding a dropped goal after 17 minutes.
Sanchez landed his third kick and Argentina poured forward with Hernandez and Sanchez in the space of two minutes each knocking over a drop goal to open up a 15-0 lead.
The Pumas stayed on top after the interval, with Sanchez’s third drop extending the lead to 18-3.
France regrouped and was rewarded when inside centre Wesley Fofana scored the only try in the 57th minute.
Flyhalf Camille Lopez converted as France reduced its deficit before Rory Kockott kicked a final penalty to make it 18-13 with 17 minutes to go.
France could have snatched the win three minutes into injury time, but Spedding was held up over the line by replacement back Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino and Sanchez.