France were given a major scare in front of their home fans as Uruguay pushed them all the way to their 27-12 victory in the Rugby World Cup on Thursday.
The game in Lille was predicted to be a comfortable result for Les Bleus but it was anything but as Los Teros will view this as a match they could have won.
Indeed, Uruguay were in the contest throughout and possibly should have been playing against 14 men for over 50 minutes but for a Bunker Review deciding that Romain Taofifenua’s dangerous tackle on Santiago Arata warranted no more than the yellow card.
That reprieve ultimately helped France avoid a potential banana skin against their South American opponents, with tries from Antoine Hastoy, Peato Mauvaka and Louis Bielle-Biarrey seeing them to victory. Melvyn Jaminet would add 12 points off the tee.
Nicolas Freitas and Baltazar Amaya were Uruguay’s try-scorers in an excellent performance as they caused the French plenty of problems on the night.
Anthony Jelonch returned from a lengthy ACL injury absence to captain the team as part of 12 changes to the starting XV which had opened the tournament with an impressive victory over three-time world champions New Zealand in Paris.
Les Bleus went in front from an early Jaminet penalty after Uruguay had collapsed the scrum.
The home fans, though, were then left in stunned silence when Jaminet failed to gather a deep cross-field kick out on the touchline. Freitas picked up the loose ball to dart down the left and score in the corner.
France responded with a try in the 11th minute when Hastoy burst through off the scrum, which Jaminet converted and then further extended the lead with another penalty.
Taofifenua was sent to the sin bin after the French lock caught Arata high with his shoulder going into a tackle – which remained at a yellow card after review by the TMO, Welshman Ben Whitehouse, when on another night it could have been deemed a red.
Uruguay, playing their first match in Pool A, had a try ruled out in the 35th minute when Felipe Etcheverry dived over, with Tomas Inciarte penalised for an obstruction in the build-up as France went into half-time 13-5 ahead.
France thought they had scored a try early in the second half when Gabin Villiere collected a loose ball to run in, but it had been inadvertently knocked-on off Jelonch’s shoulder.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) September 14, 2023
Uruguay then reduced the deficit to 13-12 after Amaya powered over in the corner and Etcheverry made the conversion.
France, though, responded again when Mauvaka touched down under the posts after a fortunate ricochet from Etcheverry’s clearance to settle the home fans’ nerves once again.
Any hopes of a comeback from Los Teros were finally ended after Bielle-Biarrey went over in the corner before Sekou Macalou’s breakaway 80-metre try was ruled out by the TMO for kicking through the ruck.
France: 15 Melvyn Jaminet, 14 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 13 Arthur Vincent, 12 Yoram Moefana, 11 Gabin Villière, 10 Antoine Hastoy, 9 Maxime Lucu, 8 Anthony Jelonch (c), 7 Sekou Macalou, 6 Paul Boudehent, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Cameron Woki, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Pierre Bourgarit, 1 Jean-Baptiste Gros
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Reda Wardi, 18 Sipili Falatea, 19 Bastien Chalureau, 20 Thibaud Flament, 21 Francois Cros, 22 Baptiste Couilloud, 23 Thomas Ramos
Uruguay: 15 Baltazar Amaya, 14 Bautista Basso, 13 Tomas Inciarte, 12 Andres Vilaseca (c), 11 Nicolas Freitas, 10 Felipe Etcheverry, 9 Santiago Arata, 8 Manuel Diana, 7 Santiago Civetta, 6 Manuel Ardao, 5 Manuel Leindekar, 4 Felipe Aliaga, 3 Ignacio Peculo, 2 Guillermo Pujadas, 1 Mateo Sanguinetti
Replacements: 16 Facundo Gattas, 17 Matias Benitez, 18 Reinaldo Piussi, 19 Ignacio Dotti, 20 Lucas Bianchi, 21 Carlos Deus, 22 Agustin Ormaechea, 23 Felipe Berchesi
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)