France claimed their first victory in nine months by beating Argentina 28-13 as Teddy Thomas scored twice on Saturday, less than a year from the teams’ meeting at next year’s World Cup.
Guilhem Guirado also crossed for the home side in Lille as Jacques Brunel’s men sealed a much-needed confidence boost as well as a psychological edge ahead of the pool-stage fixture in the sport’s showpiece event in Japan in September.
“It feels good, especially with what happened last week (last minute defeat to South Africa). It wasn’t easy to bounce back,” Guirado said.
“I’m happy and reassured about the spirit within the squad after what the players did. We gave everything in the second half.”
Despite a positive start for the Pumas with Ramiro Moyano touching down after less than two minutes, the hosts fought back for a first win since March’s Six Nations victory over England.
Moyano’s try came after a superb Jeronimo de la Fuente off-load and the winger ran in untouched from more than 50 metres.
Baptiste Serin claimed the home side’s first points with a penalty goal after seven minutes. Nicolas Sanchez then added one of his own.
Thomas’ first try came as Yoann Huget, playing his first Test in a year, broke the Argentinian line following tidy set-piece play and the Racing 92 winger dotted the ball down in the corner unopposed.
France’s scrum was solid throughout and the they took the lead for the first time after 33 minutes as the Pumas’ 22-year old tight-head prop Santiago Medrano was penalised and Serin added the three points for a 11-10 advantage which held until the half-time whistle.
The Pumas started the second half the better and Sanchez added a second penalty goal to regain the lead for his side.
– Fickou shows class –
The rest of the half belonged to the home team, mainly through fine playmaking by Gael Fickou who transferred his good club form onto the international stage.
The centre, who was promoted to the starting lineup after starting last weekend’s defeat by South Africa on the bench, slalomed his way through the Argentine defence before throwing a 30-metre pass cross-field for Thomas to catch and score his second touchdown of the night.
“My mind was set on playing well and the coaches trusted in me for the match,” Fickou said.
“We won with quite a big scoreline. It’s good, it’s been a while since we enjoyed ourselves as much as that.”
Thomas had been criticised after the Springboks loss for wasting an overlap but made up for that error with sublime finishes to bring his international try tally to 10 in 15 Tests.
Mario Ledesma’s side had chances during the final 40 minutes including a chip and chase from fly-half Sanchez but Moyano failed to gather the ball cleanly two metres out from the French try-line.
Half-back Serin slotted a third penalty with less than quarter of an hour remaining and hooker Guirado stretched the advantage as he capitalised on an Argentine handling error on their own try-line to claim his team’s third try.
Brunel had to wait more than nine months for his last victory, but beating a World Cup rival less than a year from the tournament will do a lot of good for his side.
France finish their November Test series by playing Fiji in Paris on Saturday and Argentina face Scotland before a trip to Twickenham against the Barbarians the following week.