France got their Autumn Nations Series campaign off to a positive start when they notched a 29-20 victory over Argentina in Paris on Saturday.
In a hard-fought and often tempestuous encounter, both sides scored two tries apiece with Thibaud Flament and Peato Mauvaka crossing the whitewash for France, while their other points came via the boot of Melvyn Jaminet, who contributed 19 points courtesy of five penalties and two conversions.
For the Pumas, Tomas Cubelli and Matteo Carreras dotted down with Emiliano Boffelli succeeding with a conversion and a couple of penalties and Nicolas Sanchez also added a two-pointer off the kicking tee.
Toulouse’s Antoine Dupont, regarded by many as the world’s best scrumhalf, led his country for the first time in the absence of the injured Charles Ollivon.
He was joined at halfback by Bordeaux-Begles’ Jalibert with regular flyhalf Romain Ntamack moving across to centre with Virimi Vakatawa and Arthur Vincent out with fitness issues.
Argentina coach Mario Ledesma started Santiago Carreras at flyhalf with Nicolas Sanchez only fit enough to make the bench.
More than 50,000 of the 80,000 tickets available at the Stade de France were sold as the home side played in front of a home crowd for the first time since February 2020.
Les Bleus had the better of the early exchanges and were leading 6-0 midway through the half after fullback Jaminet succeeded with a couple of penalties.
In the 21st minute, Argentina had their first opportunity to score points – after the home side were penalised on defence – but Boffelli’s shot at goal was wide of the mark.
From the restart, Pablo Matera charged down a Matthieu Jalibert kick on France’s 22-metre line before regathering and charging towards his opponents’ try-line. His progress was halted just short of the whitewash but Cubelli gathered at the ensuing ruck before diving over under the posts.
Five minutes later, Marcos Kremer and Julien Marchand were yellow carded after an off-the-ball incident and in the 35th minute Jaminet added his third penalty which gave his side a 9-7 lead at half-time.
The visitors made the brighter start to the second half and were leading 10-9 by the 48th minute after another Boffelli penalty, but France struck back shortly afterwards when Flament gathered a pass from Jalibert before crossing for his side’s first try.
Another Boffelli penalty on the hour-mark meant the match was evenly poised with France holding a slender 16-13 lead but France finished stronger and accurate goal-kicking from Jaminet and Mauvaka’s five-pointer gave them a healthy buffer.
The Pumas refused to surrender and were rewarded when Carreras went over for their second five-pointer in the 78th minute but Jaminet secured his side’s win when he slotted his fifth penalty in the game’s dying moments.
France 29 (Tries: Flament, Mauvaka, Cons: Jaminet 2, Pens: Jaminet 5) Argentina 20 (Tries: Cubelli, Carreras, Cons: Boffelli, Sanchez, Pens: Boffelli 2)
France: 15 Melvyn Jaminet, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Romain Ntamack, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont (captain), 8 Anthony Jelonch, 7 Cameron Woki, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Jean-Baptise Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Gregory Alldritt, 21 Sekou Macalou, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Jonathan Danty.
Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Rodrigo Martinez, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Lucio Cinti.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)