x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

France far from convincing despite Clerc hat-trick

A 23-point haul the boot of Morgan Parra helps France to a 46-19 victory over Canada in Pool A of the Rugby World Cup.

Vicent Clerc makes sure he has control of the ball in slippery conditions during France's 46-19 win against Canada.
Vicent Clerc makes sure he has control of the ball in slippery conditions during France's 46-19 win against Canada.

NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND // Morgan Parra helped guide France to a 46-19 win over Canada in their second Rugby World Cup to remain unbeaten in Pool A alongside New Zealand.

In a game littered with elementary errors, Parra kicked four conversions and five of his six penalties, including three in nine minutes before half time that crucially saw France build a substantial lead they never ceded.

The winger Vincent Clerc ran-in a hat-trick of tries and the full-back Damien Traille also crossed the whitewash, while Francois Trinh-Duc kicked a drop-goal.

Canada, 25-20 winners over Tonga in their opening pool match, remained within touching distance of the French thanks to a Ryan Smith try, two penalties and a conversion from James Pritchard, and two drop-goals by Ander Monro.

France, comfortable 47-21 winners over Japan in their opener, showed a willingness to run the ball from the kick-off, but a poor grubber-kick handed possession to the Canadians, the French strayed offside and Pritchard banged over a simple second minute penalty.

The French came straight back just two minutes later, Clerc capitalising on a towering Trinh-Duc up-and-under that Pritchard spilt just metres from his own line.

But in a remarkable reversal of fortunes, Canada scored with the exact same tactic just three minutes later, Damien Traille failing to gather a high-kick from Monro, allowing the centre Smith enjoying the easy task of gathering the ball to score.

Pritchard then missed a 40-metre penalty and a snap drop-goal in quick succession as France struggled to master wet conditions that eased up as the game went on.

Parra equalled the score with a 16th minute penalty, Pritchard scuffing another penalty wide shortly after.

The France scrum-half then notched up three penalties in quick succession as Canada twice infringed at the ruck and once strayed offside in midfield to importantly make it 19-10 at the break.

Pritchard made a real hash of a penalty early in the second-half but fly-half Monro made amends with a well-struck drop-goal from 40m.

But Parra hit straight back with his fifth penalty after Jason Marshall was adjudged to have collapsed a scrum.

Monro then seized on a slip by his scrum-half Aaron Carpenter to snap an opportunist drop-goal with the French failing to pressure the midfield.

Parra missed his first kick of the night when he dragged a penalty right of the uprights, but his half-back partner Trinh-Duc nailed a drop-goal in the 56th minute to make it 25-16.

Pritchard closed the gap with his second successful penalty.

But Traille and then Clerc both ran in converted tries down the right wing to move the game out of Canada's reach.

With the final move of the match Clerc added some gloss to the score when he crossed for his third try after Maxime Mermoz broke the flagging Canadian line.