x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Clerc inspires France to 39-22 win over Argentina

Vincent Clerc overcame a strong early start by Argentina to fire France to a comfortable victory in Lille and continue their winning run against southern hemisphere sides.

France's Vincent Clerc is brought down by Argentina's Nicolas Sanchez
France's Vincent Clerc is brought down by Argentina's Nicolas Sanchez

Vincent Clerc scored his 33rd and 34th test tries in only three minutes as France quickly recovered from a slow start to beat a gallant Argentina 39-22 in Lille on Saturday.

Argentina had started well and led 13-3 after 17 minutes, but Clerc's first try sparked a run of 21 unanswered points for France that saw the home side establish a 24-13 half-time advantage.

The Pumas continued to battle hard in the second half and reduced the gap between the two sides to eight points on a couple of occasions, but they could not get any closer and Federic Michalak's kicking ensured France would come out on top.

"We did not put enough in during the opening minutes and you cannot afford to be physically down against Argentina because they move fast and they pushed us backwards," Clerc said.

"We managed to turn the situation upside-down by being more aggressive."

Les Bleus stunned the Wallabies 33-6 in Paris last weekend but they have found Argentina a tough nut to crack and have only have triumphed in four of the 11 meetings between the two nations.

And another night of disappointment looked to be on the cards for the French at Stade Lille Metropole when, after Michalak had put them ahead with a penalty, Argentina promptly replied with a flurry of points.

A break from Gonzalo Tiesi helped centre Marcelo Bosch, who plays his club rugby in France for Biarritz, go over for the game's opening try in the fourth minute, and then Nicolas Sanchez added eight more points from a conversion and two penalties.

Argentina soon found themselves on the back foot though and a 17-minute 21-point scoring blitz from the French all but ended the South American nation's hopes of following up their win over Wales with another triumph.

Experienced winger Clerc collected two tries - taking his tally for his country to 34 - and flanker Yannick Nyanga crossed for another in quick succession as, with Michalak adding the extra points for each, the hosts powered into an 11-point lead at the interval.

There were no more tries in the second half, which turned into a shoot-out between Michalak and Sanchez.

Sanchez brought Argentina back within touching distance with two penalties and a drop goal, taking his personal tally for the evening to 17, but Michalak slammed the door shut with three more penalties in the final 12 minutes to seal France's triumph.

"They surprised us because it took us time to get into the game," lock Yoann Maestri told French channel France 2.

"The second half was far less exciting but we did what we needed to. We have recorded a second victory in a row, it has not been easy but we showed heart and solidarity."

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