France claim famous victory over Boks
November 13, 2009
France's Thierry Dusautoir steered his side to a famous victory in his first match as captain
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Peter De Villiers Schalk Burger Vincent Clerc Thierry Dusautoir Cedric Heymans Marc Lievremont Morne Steyn
An inspired France scored an historic 20-13 victory over South Africa in a pulsating encounter at the Stade Municipal in Toulouse.
A try from Vincent Clerc and the kicking exploits of Julien Dupuy and Morgan Parra carried the hosts to a hard-earned triumph against a subdued Springboks side who were outmuscled by a fired up French pack. The visitors had led at half-time thanks largely to a try from captain John Smit but suffered crucial yellow cards for fly-half Morne Steyn and No.8 Ryan Kankowski as their end of year tour went from bad to worse following a shock defeat at the hands of Premiership giants Leicester last week.
The hosts entered the clash on the back of a stunning victory over New Zealand earlier this summer but coach Marc Lievremont opted to bolster his line-up ahead of their showdown with the Tri-Nations champions and Rugby World Cup holders. Louis Picamoles packed down in a formidable backrow alongside captain Thierry Dusautoir and Imanol Harinordoquy while Maxim Mermoz and Yann David formed a new-look centre partnership.
Reeling from their loss to the Tigers last week, South Africa handed Zane Kirchner only his second cap at fullback with Kankowski and Schalk Burger benefiting from injuries to Pierre Spies and Juan Smith.
France were rewarded for a lively start with the opening score of the game after five minutes when South Africa were penalised for going off their feet. Dupuy stepped up for the long range shot at goal and his kick found its target despite a blustery wind causing havoc in the stadium.
Steyn pulled the visitors level midway through the half with the latest example of his kicking prowess. A rash moment of retaliation by France flanker Harinordquy gifted the Springboks the penalty and Steyn made no mistake with what was a testing kick.
The Springboks were growing in confidence having weathered the early storm and they pounced on a mistake by Yann David, but Smit was guilty of a poor attempt at a cross kick when perhaps the ball should have stayed in hand. However, the Springboks were soon knocking on the door again and a drop goal from Steyn gave them the lead.
A trademark Heinrich Brussow turnover then sparked another attack and the kick ahead saw winger Bryan Habana win a foot race with Clerc only to see the ball beat them both into touch. France failed to secure possession at the lineout and Smit took full advantage of the loose throw by collecting the ball and powering through the tackle of Dupuy to touch down. Steyn made no mistake with the conversion to put the Springboks firmly in control.
But back came the hosts with a strong break from Fabien Barcella. David also made big gains before the ball was recycled by Dupuy and flicked on by Trinh-Duc to Clerc who went over in the corner - although he had to wait for the Television Match Official to confirm the score. Dupuy struck the touchline conversion well but it sailed wide of the posts.
Tempers threatened to boil over as the half drew to a close and Habana escaped sanction with a kick at Francois Trinh-Duc but Dupuy could only hit the post with his kick. France were soon pressing again and a chip through from Clerc had the Boks retreating but a trip by Steyn on the French winger brought an abrupt end to the move. The Springboks' fly-half was sent to the sin-bin while Dupuy slotted the penalty to bring an end to the half.
Under pressure to maximise their advantage the home side conjured an impressive drive in the early stages of the second half that was dragged down illegally by lock Bakkies Botha - but Dupuy found the required distance out of his range. The dominant French pack soon drew another penalty and this time Dupuy was on target to give his side the lead once more.
Steyn returned without any further damage to the scoreboard but France continued to dominate and had the crowd on their feet with a slick passing move after Habana had spilled the ball under pressure. Backs and forwards combined superbly to drive deep into the Springboks' 22 but Trinh-Duc spilled the ball as he looked to force a pass in contact.
South Africa were penalised for early engagement at the resulting scrum and France boldly opted for another but Harinordoquy found himself isolated and unable to prevent the turnover.
A superb touch-finder from Steyn took South Africa into France's 22 for the first time soon after but they were thwarted when replacement Sebastien Chabal stole the ball out of Victor Matfield's clutches.
An error from Heymans just short of the hour mark then gifted South Africa the chance to regain the lead. The winger's kick went out on the full after the ball had been passed back into the 22 and as South Africa looked to take the resulting lineout quickly replacement David Marty was penalised for obstruction. A rare miss from Steyn proved a major let-off for France. His error was compounded when the Springboks pack were penalised for wheeling a scrum allowing Dupuy to edge his side further ahead with his fourth penalty.
The Springboks continued to feel the wrath of referee Wayne Barnes and Brussow's efforts to pull down a maul gave France another good platform to build but this time they were unable to capitalise. A sniping run from Habana then almost opened up France down the shortside but a timely turnover and clearance from replacement scrum-half Parra relieved the pressure took the game 60m down field.
South Africa made a mess of the lineout and Kankowski was the next to see yellow for killing the ball as Marty went close - but Parra hooked the easy kick wide of the posts. France went looking for the kill and continued to dominate in terms of territory with Clerc threatening twice and fullback Damien Traille pulling a long-range drop goal attempt just wide.
The hosts failed repeatedly to find the score that would seal the win but summoned one last effort to inflict yet more misery on the Springboks' scrum under their own posts. Parra made no mistake this time to put his side on course for a famous win.