Argentina came from behind to snatch a dramatic 23-20 win over France in the first game of their two-Test series on Saturday.
Argentina came from behind to snatch a dramatic 23-20 win over France in the first game of their two-Test series at Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes in CÃ³rdoba on Saturday.
The visitors looked to have their first victory on Argentine soil since 1998 wrapped up until Pumas wing Manuel Montero burst clear in the 77th minute to score the winning try.
France led 14-13 at the end of a scrappy first half thanks to a try from Louis Picamoles but their advantage should have been a lot larger after the visitors left eleven points by wayside with some below-par kicking.
Indeed, les Bleus will harbour a number of regrets as they produced far more on attack than their hosts and were never seriously threatened on defence. But the tourists were their own worst enemies, committing a plethora of unforced errors and failing to close out a game that was well within their reach.
In typical fashion, Argentina used their tried-and-tested spoiling tactics to frustrate the French while Felipe Contepomi kept the scoreboard ticking with his trusty boot.
It wasn't pretty and penalties were in abundance. It took just three minutes for the first three points to be scored via France scrum-half Morgan Parra.
Los Pumas struck back immediately when wing Belisario Agulla intercepted a careless pass from Francois Trinh-Duc to race home untouched.
Contepomi added the extras but another Parra penalty left the scores at 7-6. The French were happy to keep kicking at goal – despite the jeers from the raucous crowd – but Parra's third shot from the tee drifted wide, as did a drop from Florian Fritz.
The French were looking dangerous with ball in hand. The current trend in French rugby to continually look for sucker-punch three-pointers instead to pushing for tries is a source of immense frustration.
Contepomi missed from inside his own half but Parra had no such problems when the Pumas failed to roll away (again) and the scrum-half gave France a two-point lead in the 22nd minute.
The stop-start nature of the clash saw the hosts move straight back in front though as Contepomi found the mark two minutes later.
Les Bleus replied with a fantastic try. Full-back Brice Dulin bust clear only to be stopped two metres short. Trinh-Duc's cross-field kick found Yoann Huget, who flipped it back to Picamoles volleyball-style and no one was going to stop the charging number eight from scoring.
Parra missed the conversion and another relatively easy penalty, meaning Contepomi was able to cut the gap to just a single point on the stroke of half time.
The French opened a seven-point gap as Parra found the mark soon after the restart before adding another three pointer when Pumas flank Tomas Leonardi was sent to the sin bin for a blatant offside when France were in full flight.
Les Bleus were unable to make their numerical advantage count however and Contepomi was again on target to leave the scores at 20-16 going into the final quarter.
Frederic Michalak had came on for Trinh-Duc as the French went in search of the killer blow. Indeed the winning score would come from a move initiated by Michalak, but for the wrong team.
The Toulon-bound playmaker made a darting run into the Pumas 22 but Fulgence Ouedraogo was unable to hang onto the offload. The ball was snapped up by the men in white and quickly sent out to Montero, who turned on the afterburners and sprinted 70m to score.
France had a late tilt at the Pumas defence but the game ended – appropriately – with yet another French knock-on.
The rematch is next Saturday in Tucaman.
Man of the match: What would Argentina do without Felipe Contepomi?
Moment of the match: Huget's pass inside to set up Picamoles was classic but it was outdone by Montero's try which sent the CÃ³rdoba crowd wild.
Tries: Agulla, Montero
Cons: Contepomi 2
Pens: Contepomi 3
Pens: Parra 5
Yellow cards: Leonardi (Argentina – 53rd min – cynical offside)
Argentina: 15 Roman Miralles, 14 Belisario Agulla, 13 Joaquin Tuculet, 12 Felipe Contepomi (c), 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Tomas Leonardi, 7 Tomas De la Vega, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Esteban Lozada, 4 Benjamin Macome, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Bruno Postiglioni, 1 Eusebio Guinazu.
Replacements: 16 Andres Bordoy, 17 Pablo Henn, 18 Rodrigo Bruno, 19 Rodrigo Baez, 20 Tomas Cubelli, 21 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 22 Facundo Barrea.
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Jean Marcellin Buttin, 13 Wesley Fofana, 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Yoann Huget , 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Morgan Parra , 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Yoan Maestri, 4 Pascal Pape (c), 3 David Attoub, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Yvan Watremez.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Romain Taofifenua, 19 Alexandre Lapandry, 20 Maxime Machenaud, 21 Frederic Michalak, 22 Maxime Mermoz.
Venue: Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes, CÃ³rdoba
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)