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France edges Argentina 29-20 in back-and-forth thriller

November 6, 2021 GMT
France's Thibaud Flament scores a try during the rugby union international match between France and Argentina in Saint Denis near Paris, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)
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France's Thibaud Flament scores a try during the rugby union international match between France and Argentina in Saint Denis near Paris, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)
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France's Thibaud Flament scores a try during the rugby union international match between France and Argentina in Saint Denis near Paris, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

PARIS (AP) — Lock Thibaud Flament scored a try on his test debut and hooker Peato Mauvaka came off the bench to make the game safe with his first at international level as France beat a much-changed Argentina 29-20 on Saturday.

Scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli and left winger Mateo Carreras late on grabbed tries for an Argentina side that made eight changes from the side which lost 32-17 to Australia in the last match of a disappointing Rugby Championship campaign.

Flament, who once played club rugby in Argentina, took a feed from flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert 10 minutes into the second half to slide over the line for a try converted by fullback Melvyn Jaminet, who collected 19 points with a solid kicking display.

That loosened up France after a turgid first half, and 55,000 fans at Stade de France cheered when veteran center Gael Fickou set up standout scrumhalf Antoine Dupont to loop around the left for a second try three minutes later.

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But a TMO decision ruled it out for a knock on by Jaminet.

Dupont captained the side in the absence of Charles Ollivon and started alongside Jalibert in the halves, with Romain Ntamack at inside center. Ntamack was disappointing and replaced.

Jaminet kicked France to 6-0 but after Emiliano Boffelli fluffed a penalty kick, Jalibert’s 22 dropout was charged down by flanker Pablo Matera, and Cubelli dived over for a converted score to nudge the Pumas ahead after 22 minutes.

Tired of the constant pushing and shoving after the whistle, referee Ben O’Keeffe stopped it when he sin-binned Argentina flanker Marcos Kremer and France hooker Julien Marchand.

France came out of halftime 9-7 up, but within 10 minutes Boffelli’s long goalkick restored Argentina’s one-point lead in a gritty contest.

France went back ahead a third time thanks to Flament after good work from flanker Cameron Woki.

Still, Argentina was undeterred, and Boffelli’s penalty slashed France’s lead to three points.

Jaminet’s fourth penalty made it 19-13 then he punished a tiring Argentina when he took a feed from Woki and offloaded to replacement hooker Mauvaka for a converted try.

At 26-13, France seemed safe but Argentina disagreed. Replacement flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez expertly guided play and Boffelli flicked back a high ball to set up Carreras in the right corner for a converted try.

Jaminet had the last word: A penalty right in front of the sticks on the final whistle.

France is at home to Georgia in Bordeaux and then faces New Zealand at Stade de France, while the Argentines travel to Italy and then Ireland.

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