MARSEILLE, France, Nov 8 (Reuters) - France had to work hard to defeat Argentina 12-6 on Saturday and take their revenge on the Pumas who spoiled their home World Cup a year ago.
The French had most of the possession but too many unforced errors cancelled out their attacking efforts in a try-less, rough and scrappy game with neither team giving an inch.
The French relied on three penalties by Benoit Baby and David Skrela, the last one two minutes from time, and a snap drop goal by Skrela to erase the memory of their defeat to the Pumas in the opening game and third-place playoff of the World Cup.
The Pumas scored two penalties by Felipe Contepomi.
“To win was particularly important tonight. It’s not enough but we must content ourselves with it,” France coach Marc Lievremont said.
“Sometimes you have to win playing ugly. That’s what we did tonight. We played a bit like the Pumas. We’ll score tries next time,” he added.
France’s best try-scoring opportunity came 12 minutes into the second half when fullback Maxime Medard, the only newcomer in the team, countered in his 22 after Argentina’s flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez spilled the ball.
The 21-year-old charged down the touchline and chipped ahead but a Contepomi shoulder charge pushed him into touch.
The crowd roared when Sebastien Chabal came on for captain Lionel Nallet on the hour.
In the final 10 minutes, the French produced wave after wave of attacks but the Pumas held firm.
“The good thing is that we defended well but we lacked possession. It’s only the first match of the tour,” said Argentina coach Santiago Phelan.
With France leading 9-6, the game was still open and Argentina launched a last raid deep into French territory before Skrela landed a final penalty from the touchline.
France now face the Pacific Islanders next week in Sochaux before hosting Australia at the Stade de France. Argentina will travel to Italy and Ireland. (Writing in Paris by Jean-Paul Couret; Editing by Clare Fallon and Greg Stutchbury)