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Clerc shines as France beat Argentina

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REUTERS

France's Vincent Clerc (R) struggles with Argentina's Nicolas Sanchez during their team's rugby test match at the Lille Grand Stade stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq.

Lille, France - Vincent Clerc scored his 33rd and 34th test tries in only three minutes as France quickly recovered from a slow start to beat a gallant Argentina 39-22 in Lille on Saturday.

Yannick Nyanga added the third try following a superb solitary breakthrough to give France a 24-13 halftime lead.

The second half turned into a battle of penalties which proved enough for the French to claim a second international success with an almost unchanged team, a week after they routed Australia 33-6.

“They surprised us because it took us time to get into the game,” lock Yoann Maestri told French channel France 2.

“The second half was far less exciting but we did what we needed to. We have recorded a second victory in a row, it has not been easy but we showed heart and solidarity.”

Argentina charged at their hosts early on with Marcelo Bosch scoring the first try after four minutes following a collective move.

The Pumas soon went 10 points clear in the 13th minute thanks to the boot of Nicolas Sanchez before France regrouped and began to pile on the pressure in the rucks.

“We did not put enough in during the opening minutes and you cannot afford to be physically down against Argentina because they move fast and they pushed us backwards,” Clerc said.

“We managed to turn the situation upside-down by being more aggressive.”

Led by a rock-solid and inspired Maestri, who was returning to the team after injury ruled him out of the clash with Australia, the French pack proved stronger.

Though France were made to work hard by the South American side, who stunned Wales last weekend in Cardiff, they took advantage of turnovers to move into the Pumas' territory.

Clerc turned French pressure into points when he grabbed a loose ball 10 metres from the line to touch down after 17 minutes.

The Toulouse winger - the second best try scorer in France history - added a second try three minutes later thanks to Maestri's fine kick to bring his total to 34, four short of Serge Blanco.

The game slowed down as both sides laboured on the slippery pitch in Lille, where France stay unbeaten.

Frederic Michalak, who delivered a sterling performance last weekend, did not shine as brightly in Lille but helped France keep ahead by scoring one drop goal and five penalties out of six attempts.

Argentina flyhalf Sanchez scored four penalties and a drop goal.

France, who hope to be in the top four of the International Rugby Board's rankings prior to the 2015 World Cup draw, will take on Samoa next Saturday at Stade de France in their last November international match.

Argentina visit Ireland on Saturday in Dublin. - Reuters


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