The French make hard work of seeing off the Eagles in Fukuoka
Played – 8
France wins – 7
USA wins – 1
Did You Know?
- Gael Fickou won his 50th cap for France in this match and marked the occasion with a try.
- AJ MacGinty scored nine nine points to overtake Matt Alexander (286 points, 1995-98) and move into second place on the USA all-time list behind Mike Hercus (486 points, 2002-09).
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In a nutshell
The stadium in Fukuoka is located close to the airport, but anyone who wanted to see a soaring performance would have been better off looking to the skies to spot the planes taking off.
The final scoreline may look impressive but France made hard work of this – their own errors as much as the USA’s belligerence playing a part – and it was only the 21 points they scored in the last 13 minutes that ensured they secured a healthy-looking victory.
Things looked ominous for the USA when Yoann Huget scored the opening try in the sixth minute. Bernard Le Roux had made ground and when the ball was kicked behind by Camille Lopez a few phases later, the winger picked up the ball to cross under the posts.
Yet the USA got traction when turning to their traditional strength – the maul – and put pressure on the French in their own 22 after kicking for territory from infringements. This is how they got their first points, forcing France to creep offside in defending the phases after a five-metre lineout and AJ MacGinty slotting the three.
France were quick to respond, Lopez kicking cross-field for Alivereti Raka to leap for the ball, avoid stepping into touch and dot down in the corner. It was a show of great athleticism.
Related: What Alivereti Raka brings to France
Back the US came with their set-piece game, this time attacking from a scrum in the French 22, and another offside infringement saw MacGinty double their score from the tee.
The game then went through a period of 35 minutes, spread either side of half-time, when not a point was scored, the board continually showing 12-6. There were chances – Raka looked to be heading in for a second try after a brilliant break from Sofiane Guitoune only for the long pass wide to be ruled forward – but there were far too many errors. Knock-on, scrum, forward pass, scrum… it was all very stop-start and neither team was able to build on momentum.
It was only when MacGinty narrowed the gap to just three points with another penalty in the 64th minute that France seemed to wake from their slumber. They put more pace into the game, forcing the US defence onto the back foot, and scored two tries in four minutes.
Gael Fickou went over first, beating two defenders close to the line. Then came another Lopez cross-kick for Raka, who managed to secure the ball, offload to Yacouba Camara and the flanker fed Baptiste Serin for a clear run to the line. For once the passes stuck and the try came.
They rounded things off with a fifth try in the last play, Jefferson Poirot the beneficiary from a powerful rolling maul.
They may have finished with a flourish but the error count will be a concern for the coaches, particularly with another tough match to come against Tonga on Sunday.
He was only on the pitch for 15 minutes but Baptiste Serin’s introduction at scrum-half late on proved a masterstroke for France. He brought more speed and energy to the French attack, delivering the scoring pass for Fickou before crossing himself to ensure his team left Fukuoka with a bonus-point win. He was the impact sub that was able to get France out of the doldrums.
To top it off, he then shared a cute moment with USA lock Greg Peterson and his baby…
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France coach Jacques Brunel: “I’m happy we won and got the bonus point, but what was difficult was physically it was very humid. In the warm-up we felt the humidity. The ball was very slippery and they had a very tough defence as well. But what was positive was the win.”
USA coach Gary Gold: “I absolutely believe we restored credibility. One reason why I was as harsh as I was (after the England defeat) is I think we’re a much better rugby team than what we did against England. The guys showed a huge amount of courage. I think we contained France very well and were outstanding in so many aspects of the game.”
France: Thomas Ramos (Maxime Medard 57); Alivereti Raka, Sofiane Guitoune (Romain Ntamack 76), Gael Fickou, Yoann Huget; Camille Lopez, Maxime Machenaud (Baptiste Serin 65); Cyril Baille (Jefferson Poirot 45), Camille Chat (Guilhem Guirado h-t), Emerick Setiano (Rabah Slimani 45), Bernard Le Roux, Paul Gabrillagues (Sebastien Vahaamahina 57), Arthur Iturria (Gregory Alldritt 65), Yacouba Camara, Louis Picamoles (captain).
Tries: Huget 6, Raka 24, Fickou 67, Serin 71, Poirot 78. Cons: Ramos, Lopez 3.
USA: Mike Teo; Blaine Scully (captain), Marcel Brache, Bryce Campbell, Martin Iosefo (Thretton Palamo 72); AJ MacGinty (Will Magie 78), Shaun Davies (Ruben de Haas 54); Eric Fry (Olive Kilifi 69), Joe Taufete’e (Dylan Fawsitt 65), Titi Lamositele (Paul Mullen 54), Nate Brakeley (Greg Peterson 69), Nick Civetta, Tony Lamborn, Hanco Germishuys, Cam Dolan (Ben Pinkelman 58).
Pens: MacGinty 3.
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