Sanchez boots Pumas to 18-13 stunner over France
PARIS (AP) — Nicolas Sanchez kicked three dropped goals, two penalties and made a last-gasp try-saving tackle as Argentina shocked France 18-13 at the Stade de France on Saturday.
France could have snatched the win three minutes into injury time, but fullback Scott Spedding was held up over the line by replacement back Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino and Sanchez.
France was in buoyant mood after successive wins over Fiji and Australia, and was expected to toss aside the Pumas.
Argentina, after a first Rugby Championship win over Australia, fell flat in Europe in a loss to Scotland and narrow win over Italy. But it unleashed a top-shelf effort to earn a fifth win in the last nine matches against Les Tricolores.
Juan Martin Hernandez added another drop for the visitors, who led 15-3 at halftime of a poor contest.
“The French defense was well in place, so we relied on drop goals,” Hernandez said. “It was the only way to score points. Congratulations to our flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez.”
Inside center Wesley Fofana scored the only try in the 57th minute for France. Flyhalf Camille Lopez converted as France reduced its deficit before Rory Kockott kicked a final penalty to make it 18-13 with 17 minutes to go.
“They deserve their victory, we lacked aggressiveness in the first half, we dominated the second but it was too late,” France captain Thierry Dusautoir said. “Finishing these series with a defeat leaves a bitter taste in our mouth.”
The loss - the first at home against Argentina since the 2007 World Cup - will leave the French coaches with plenty to chew on before Scotland’s visit next February in the Six Nations following a difficult 2014 year marked by a fourth place in the continental tournament.
France’s inconsistency came back to haunt it, while the Pumas put on a display of pugnacity, solid defense, and guile. Back from injury, captain Agustin Creevy was quick and strong in the rucks and his teammates brought the French down to earth with variations in play.
The French were second best in every sector.
Saint-Andre’s team was immediately under pressure and penalized for holding on, with Sanchez putting the visitors ahead in the first minute with a precise kick. Argentina enjoyed most of the possession, and France missed the chance to level when Lopez missed a goalkick in the 12th.
Argentina forced the French to make a lot of tackles, and Sanchez made no mistake to double his team’s lead five minutes later.
Marcelo Bosch injured his shoulder and was replaced by Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, but the Pumas were not disrupted, and Sanchez increased the gap in the 26th after the hosts were penalized for offside play. Two dropped goals from Hernandez and Sanchez made it 15-0 before Lopez put France on the scoreboard.
The Pumas stayed on top after the interval, with Sanchez’s third drop extending the lead to 18-3.
France regrouped and was rewarded by Fofana’s try, whose enthusiasm on the pitch was not matched by the rest of his teammates. The center powered his way over the line after connecting with Kockott, but it was too little too late as Spedding last-minute effort was waved away by the referee.
Argentina 18 (Nicolas Sanchez 2 penalties, 3 dropped goals, Juan Martin Hernandez dropped goal), France 13 (Wesley Fofana try; Camille Lopez conversion, penalty, Rory Kockott penalty). HT: 15-3