France 10 Argentina 34
Argentina ended their magnificent World Cup campaign as they started it, stunning hosts France in their own back yard with a sensational performance to claim the tournament’s bronze medal.
The result, secured thanks to Pumas tries by Felipe Contepomi and Omar Hasan in the first half and Federico Martin Aramburu, Ignacio Corleto and Contepomi again in the second, brought back memories of the shock 17-12 win earned by the South Americans on the tournament’s opening night.
That Stade de France triumph was built around sturdy defence and although they showed the same resolve here at the Parc des Princes, their attacking edge came to the fore this time.
The tries by Aramburu and Corleto were especially memorable, and helped earn the Argentinians a record success over the French.
Contepomi added three conversions and a penalty to give himself a 19-point personal haul for the night, while Les Bleus could only manage a try from Clement Poitrenaud – converted by Lionel Beauxis – and a Jean-Baptiste Elissalde penalty.
It was a disappointing way for their head coach Bernard Laporte to depart – he takes up a post in the French government now – but departing Pumas coach Marcelo Loffreda, who is off to Leicester Tigers, was all smiles at the final whistle.
With the pressure off, the shackles were well and truly removed from the hosts, who were the more fired-up of the two sides throughout.
Indeed, they bossed the majority of an incendiary opening 40 minutes – but somehow found themselves 17-3 behind going into the break.
Les Bleus, throwing the ball around like the country’s teams of old, had a try disallowed in the 10th minute when Imanol Harinordoquy was adjudged to have passed forward prior to Elissalde touching down.
The likes of Yannick Nyanga and Christophe Dominici were finding gaps in the Pumas defence but all they had to show from a dominant opening 20 minutes was an Elissalde penalty, for Patricio Albacete’s hands in the ruck.
Their lack of cutting edge was ruthlessly punished by Argentina, who scored two tries in four minutes around the half-hour mark.
Contepomi, who had levelled matters with a 22nd-minute penalty, was the first player to go over, running onto a delayed Agustin Pichot pass to force himself over in the left corner.
Then, after Juan Martin Hernandez had crashed a drop goal against the post, the Pumas retook possession and prop Hasan was there at the bottom of a pile of bodies to ground.
The try needed the say-so of the video referee and Contepomi – like he had after his own try – added the extras for 17-3.
It was a bizarre scoreline, given France’s dominance of the early possession.
Even when they were encamped on Argentina’s line in the last five minutes of the first half, the hosts still could not break through their opponents’ obdurate rearguard.
Nyanga came closest to scoring in the second minute of injury time, but dropped the ball as he was attempting to ground.
The half ended with Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Raphael Ibanez receiving yellow cards after another heated exchange, but the start of the second period was engagingly open.
France needed to score first to make a game of it but they were hit by Aramburu’s sucker punch in the 53rd minute. And what a try it was.
Aurelien Rougerie’s chip-and-chase was fielded by Felipe Contepomi before Corleto set off on a magnificent 50-yard winding run.
The ball was fired out to the right – through the hands of Manuel Contepomi and Hernandez – to Aramburu, who jinked inside Dominici to ground. Contepomi missed the conversion but the France supporters were already whistling with their team 22-3 down.
Sebastien Chabal was brought on for the final 20 minutes, and almost immediately he was floored by a late hit by Juan Manuel Leguizamon. It earned the London Irish flanker a yellow card, but Argentina made light of their numerical deficit by running in a sensational fourth try.
Off turnover ball, Horacio Agulla was set clear down the left. His inside pass was taken by Corleto and just as he did in the opening game of the tournament, he scorched past the covering defence to dive over in the corner.
The try France probably deserved came in the 69th minute, the recalled Poitrenaud easing over in the left corner following an initial Harinordoquy break.
The night belonged to the Pumas, though, and Contepomi rounded things off with his second try of the night with three minutes left to add insult to injury for the French.