Argentina' big win on French strategy

Argentina opened the Rugby World Cup by gatecrashing France's party and finished by handing the host a record 34-10 defeat to place a best-ever third.

updated: October 22, 2007 17:28 IST
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Argentina opened the Rugby World Cup by gatecrashing France's party and finished by handing the host a record 34-10 defeat to place a best-ever third on Friday.

World player of the year nominee Felipe Contepomi scored two of the Pumas' five tries to France's one to notch their biggest victory against France, easily surpassing an 18-6 win in 1988 at Buenos Aires.

"In the end they showed that without a doubt we are ranked third in the world and we can stake this now with complete authority," Pumas coach Marcelo Loffreda said after his last game in charge. "They played with their hearts on their sleeves, they played in a romantic way, they played with romanticism. That's why we were the superior team."

Argentina defeated France 17-12 on the first night of the tournament, and was even more convincing on the first occasion of two teams meeting twice in the same World Cup. Another rematch will occur in Saturday's final between defending champion England and South Africa at Stade de France.

"We didn't set out to prove anything to anyone. We just wanted to prove something to ourselves," Contepomi said. "We wanted to end this World Cup in the best way possible.

"I am an admirer of French rugby, and I think they have some stupendous players. But today we had an impenetrable defense. Today we gave our lives out there on the pitch," he said.

Argentina made six changes from the team which lost to South Africa in the semifinals, while France changed nine after losing to England last weekend.

Match strategy

France's intentions in its first game at Parc des Princes in 10 years were immediately obvious, with an all-out attack that thrilled a crowd of almost 46,000.

But Argentina absorbed everything and after conceding a Jean-Baptiste Elissalde penalty, answered with 27 straight points.

"We believed perhaps that the World Cup was finished after England," France flanker Yannick Nyanga said. "But in life you only get what you deserve. We are very disappointed and we weren't up to it tonight. We have to keep a stiff back and keep working."

Against the run of play, Pumas Number 8 Gonzalo Longo broke upfield, hooker Alberto Vernet Basualdo carried four defenders to the line and Contepomi flashed across in the left corner in the 28th minute. He converted that from touch, and the second try four minutes later when another Vernet Basualdo bulldozing run set up fellow frontrower Omar Hasan.

Argentina repelled three straight tap-penalties at the end of the half and French frustration at the Pumas' ferocious defense spilled over into ever increasing off-the-ball incidents. It was no surprise when New Zealand referee Paul Honiss, whistling a world record 45th test, yellow-carded Pumas lock Rimas Alvarez Kairelis while he was on his back being treated for ruck marks that got retiring France captain Raphael Ibanez sinbinned with him in the last act of the half.

"The match was not controlled well around the ruck. What can you do?" Ibanez said. "The players were lying on the ball and we lost our composure a bit. I don't condone this, but frankly after a while, we had to react."

Trailing 17-3, France kept attacking but the lack of combinations and Argentina's tackling forced errors which led to the Pumas' next two tries.

"We tried to play an entertaining game and it backfired on us," France manager Jo Maso said.

Pumas fullback Ignacio Corleto picked up loose ball that was chain-mailed across the park for right winger Federico Martin Aramburu to score, then a turnover near the Pumas tryline was sped down the left wing by Horacio Agulla and finished by Corleto for 27-3.

Clement Poitrenaud, the specialist fullback dearly missed in France's first loss to Argentina and the semifinal defeat to England, deserved his team's only touchdown but the Pumas capped their sixth defeat of France in seven matches when a magnificent charge by replacement Juan Manuel Leguizamon gave Contepomi his second converted try.

"They have achieved something spectacular, and there is no doubt that Argentine rugby is going to benefit from this," Argentine union chairman Alejandro Risler said. "It was incredible to see an entire stadium fall silent in front of a great performance from the team. We didn't imagine we would have such a large win."