Planet Rugby

France emerge victorious in kick-fest

08th November 2008 21:41

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Juan Martin Hernandez kicks against France

Kicked to death: The game was dominated by kicking from both sides

France were the victors in a frustrating encounter in Marseilles on Saturday, beating rivals Argentina 12-6 in a game that was dominated by the boot.

After their last encounter, a fiery Argentinean victory at the World Cup, all the signs pointed towards an equally ferocious meeting, with plenty of attacking rugby. The reality was quite different, yes there was niggle in the game, but the physical edge was lacking somewhat.

Couple that with the fact that some of the best running rugby players in world rugby had an obsession with kicking and you soon get a flavour of the game. Needless to say it was a frustrating spectacle, leaving one's mind boggled at the thought of just how frustrating it was to play in the game, and lacked any fluidity.

Really, the game can best be summed up by one startling fact - it took France fifty minutes to go through an attack that lasted more than six phases. Nearly every other attack, from both sides, culminated in a kick, and most of the kicks were aimless.

It is difficult to judge either side on this outing, other than to say they both need to scrub up on their kicking out of hand. A light rain ensured the scrums, which had promised to be a tasty spectacle, materialised into nothing more than a squelching pile of bodies - although Argentina did manage to poach a couple against the head.

As one would expect with so many naturally talented footballers on display, there were moments of brilliance that gave the spectator a jab in the ribs to rouse them from their slumber. But no sooner had one's waning hope of some decent rugby fluttered a little than a knock-on or ill-advised kick ensured it dozed off once more.

Felipe Contepomi fluffed a simple chance to give his side the lead early on, after Dimitri Szarzewski went in off his feet at the breakdown, but he pushed his kick well wide of the uprights. As it was David Skrela slotted a drop goal moments later to give the hosts the lead.

With the game becoming increasingly fragmented, not helped by both sides' insistence on kicking any possession inside their own half, scoring chances became something of a rarity. So much so that when Argentina were awarded a penalty just shy of the half hour mark, it was no surprise that Contepomi stepped up to level the scores.

It didn't take France long to restore their lead, less than sixty seconds to be precise. Argentina opted to run the kick-off back, only to see Bernardo Stortoni penalised for holding on. Skrela, rather carelessly, put his kick in off the upright from straight in front. Nevertheless France had their narrow lead back.

A third penalty moments later, this time from a booming long range Benoit Baby effort, extended that lead further and France suddenly started to come out of their shells. However another needless penalty at the breakdown put an end to their attacking sortie, as Contepomi clipped their lead back to three points going into half time.

Any prospects of an improved second half performance soon faded as both sides continued where they had left off. But for a searing break from Maxime Médard ten minutes in the game would have been completely void of action.

The only points of the half came from, you guessed it, the boot as Skrela added another penalty with four minutes to go. Argentina rallied for a moment, but their charge for victory fizzled out, much as their status in world rugby has since the world cup.

In that neither side will have learnt much from this game, rendering a near pointless exercise, it will be intriguing to see how they fare over the coming weeks. We all know they both have the ability to play devastating rugby, which gives rise to the theory they simply nullified each other here, but they need to step it up for all occasions.

Man of the Match: It's difficult to pick anyone from such a messy game, but France's Louis Picamoles was a rare bright spot. Every time he had the ball he caused problems, several times he bowled defenders out of his path as he marauded forward. Sadly he had little support in his quest.

Moment of the Match: Sad to say but the final whistle was a relief, as this was a truly abysmal Test match. If the fly-halves were not kicking then knock-ons and needless penalties were ruining the game. We had looked forward to this game for so long, but when it finally arrived it failed to deliver in the slightest, unless that is you tuned in to watch France play Argentina at football.

Villain of the Match: This award goes to the respective team tacticians who decided the best way to win a game of rugby was by kicking the ball away at every possible occasion. We are meant to be, under the ELVs, be watching a more exciting brand of rugby, someone needs to remind these two sides how to score tries.

The Scorers:

For France:

Pens: Skrela 2, Baby

Drop goal: Skrela

For Argentina:

Pens: Contepomi 2

The Teams:

France: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Julien Malzieu, 13 Yannick Jauzion, 12 Benoit Baby, 11 Cedric Heymans, 10 David Skrela, 9 Jean Baptiste Elissalde, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Thierry Dusautoir, 5 Lionel Nallet (c), 4 Romain Millo Chluski, 3 Benoit Lecouls, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Fabien Barcella.

Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Nicolas Mas, 18 Sebastien Chabal, 19 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 Damien Traille, 22 Alexis Palisson.

Argentina: 15 Bernardo Stortoni, 14 Francisco Leonelli, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Felipe Contepomi (c), 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Juan Martin Hernandez, 9 Nicolás Vergallo, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 7 Álvaro Galindo, 6 Martín Alberto Durand, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Rimas Alvarez Kairelis, 3 Juan-Pablo Orlandi, 2 Mario Ledesma, 1 Rodrigo Roncero

Replacements: 16 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Esteban Lozada, 19 Alejandro Campos, 20 Agustín Figuerola, 21 Federico Martín Aramburú, 22 Rafael Carballo.

Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand)

Touch judges: Mark Lawrence (South Africa), Peter Allan (Scotland)

Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

By Marcus Leach

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