Paris – Rejuvenated fly-half Frederic Michalak scored 19 points as France twice came from behind to defeat Samoa 22-14 in their one-off Test at the Stade de France on Saturday.
The win gave France a sweep of their autumn series matches after beating Australia 33-6 and Argentina 39-22.
But they did it the hard way.
Samoa, buoyed by their shock 26-19 win over Six Nations champions Wales last weekend, had stunned a half-full stadium by taking a 7-0 lead on the 15-minute mark.
Prop Census Johnston, who plays his club rugby with French Top 14 side Toulouse, broke the French line with a chip through a gaping hole with supporting full-back Robert Lilomaiava just keeping the ball in play.
He shrugged off Brice Dulin's tackle to feed skipper and winger David Lemi to score beneath the posts with fly-half Tusi Pisi kicking the conversion.
But France were level just three minutes later thanks to a fine individual try from Michalak.
The fly-half, enjoying a renaissance in his international career, charged down an attempted clearance by Pisi and ran 30 metres to score before adding the conversion for 7-7.
Five minutes from the interval, Johnston was penalised for an infringement at the ruck and scrum-half Morgan Parra succeeded with a penalty from 45 metres out to make the score 10-7 with Pisi squandering a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
But Samoa stunned France again after just two minutes of the second half when lock Joe Tekori barrelled over, making the line for a score which went to the video referee. Pisi converted for a 14-10 lead.
But errors and indiscipline slowly crept into the Samoans' game and that was the cue for Michalak to complete his evening's master-class.
He kicked four penalties from four attempts – the last of which in the 78th minute went in off the post – as France celebrated a not entirely convincing win. – Sapa-AFP