Mon, Nov 27, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Relief for Laporte as France defeat `bete noire' Pumas

AFP , PARIS

France's Yannick Jauzion, top, in action during the international rugby union match against Argentina at the Saint Denis' Stade De France stadium outside Paris on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

France ended their dismal autumn Test series on a high note on Saturday, beating Argentina 27-26 and ending a four-match losing streak to the Pumas.

Two tries to veteran winger Christophe Dominici -- justifying coach Bernard Laporte's faith in recalling him -- and one to Florian Fritz gave the hosts a comfortable advantage.

However two second-half tries by No. 8 Gonzalo Longo and fullback Juan Martin Hernandez gave the French some nervy moments at the end.

Coach Bernard Laporte said that it was a welcome relief to have got a win at last over Argentina, who they will play in the World Cup opener next September.

"It was imperative we won," said Laporte, who guided France to the Six Nations title last term.

"It is good to have beaten our bete noire. We should have won more easily but that is a reflection of our autumn series. A curates egg is how I would sum up the Tests," he said.

"I am not saying that the score is flattering to Argentina but when we led 27-9 things could have not been better. I enjoyed the first hour of the match but the last half hour we appeared to go to sleep. We should have won more easily but the last half hour was disappointing," Laporte said.

Man of the match Elvis Vermeulen said that while victory was nice -- after two defeats by World Cup favorites New Zealand -- it hadn't been all that convincing.

"It is not that reassuring," said the France backrow forward. "There is still work to be done."

France captain Raphael Ibanez, standing in for the injured Fabien Pelous, said that the French had felt the effects of the two losses to the All Blacks.

"Those two matches took its toll and we basically ran out of gas in the last 20 minutes," Ibanez said.

Argentina looked very comfortable in the early stages and they duly took the lead through a Federico Todeschini penalty in the ninth minute.

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