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Sunday, October 24, 1999 Published at 20:38 GMT 21:38 UK

Pumas destroyed by late French surge

Pichot kept Argentina in touch with a well-taken individual try

France 47-26 Argentina

France, the sleeping giants of the 1999 World Cup, awoke with passion as they finally overcame an exhausted Argentina in a scintillating seven-try quarter-final thriller.

The BBC's Nick Mullins: "One of the best games of the tournament"
The French re-discovered their flair and guile as they scored five tries, including a 75-metre candidate for try of the World Cup, in one of the most exciting matches of the tournament.

They raced to a 17-0 lead and looked set to thrash the only "amateur" side left in the competition but the Pumas scored two tries of their own as they refused to give up.

They chased the French all the way until a final devastating ten-minute burst took the favourites clear.

Garbajosa blow

The Pumas performance was a credit to the "emerging" rugby nations - and their departing coach Alex Wyllie - and belied the critics who said the result was a foregone conclusion.

The underdogs had conceded only three tries in four matches but their never-say-die defence was cut apart like paper in the seventh minute.

[ image: Pichot (right) put in an epic performance]
Pichot (right) put in an epic performance
Christophe Lamaison had given France an early 3-0 lead with a penalty before the famous French back line swung into action.

France switched the attack from the left flank to right with devastating effect as No 8 Christophe Juillet popped up in the line to provide full-back Xavier Garbajosa with an easy score in the corner, although he cantered round to the posts to ease the conversion.

From the drop-out France then scored one of the tries of the tournament as they put together a stunning 75m break.

Benazzi won the ball and fed Philippe Bernat-Salles who switched it out to pacy openside flanker Olivier Magne.

He waited for Bernat-Salles to arrive back on his shoulder before popping it back inside for the man known as the Pau Rocket to score under the posts.

[ image: Quesada missed more than usual but still kept his side in touch]
Quesada missed more than usual but still kept his side in touch
France were firing on all cyclinders in a way not seen for some time by their supporters but having started so well, they lost their way to allow Argentina back into the match.

The big-hearted Pumas stayed in touch with a 22nd minute try from Augustin Pichot.

It was a classic piece of sniping from the scrum-half as he spun of the back of the scrum to catch the French napping as he dived over for the score.

Gonzalo Quesada, his normal smooth rythym restored after an ealry miss, slotted the tricky conversion to keep Argentina ten points adrift.

But Argentina's hopes appeared to evaporate when Arbizu dallied over a defensive kick out of his own 22, allowing French wing Emile Ntamack to touch down France's third try from his own charge down.

Slithering try

Lamaison slotted the conversion and then traded penalty kicks with Quesada before Argentinian skipper Lisandro Arbizu made amends for his earlier error.

The Pumas seemed to have squandered a chance to score in the left corner when the ball was flung to ground.

But the No 12 opted to run a quick penalty rather than kick for goal and was rewarded when his momentum took him slithering over for his side's second try.

Quesada then slotted the conversion to keep the gap to just seven points at the break.

The game continued at break-neck pace after the interval - both sides having to settle for just three points after promising possession appeared set to offer more.

So close

By now the Pumas were desperately tired but still they dragged their tired bodies into the French.

Felipe Contepomi, on for Quesada, cut the gap to four points with a 70th minute penalty and only a last-ditch tackle from Marc Lievremont prevented a seemingly certain try which, had it been converted, would have put the Pumas ahead.

That was Argentina's last real effort as, sapped by their gruelling early rounds, they ran out of tackles.

Bernat-Salles and then Garbajosa scored two more tries for France as they finally ran out comfortable 47-26 winners.

France: Garbajosa, Bernat-Salle, Dourthe, Ntamack, Dominici, Lamaison, Galthie, Juillet, Magne, Lievremont, Brouzet, Benazzi, Tournaire, Ibanez, Soulette.
Replacements: Mola, Glas, Castaignede, Costes, Auradou, De Villiers, Dal Maso.
Argentina: Corletto, Camardon, Simone, Arbizu, Albanese, Quesada, Pichot, Longo-Elia, Martin, Phelan, Allub, Fernandez-Lobbe, Reggiardo, Ledesma Arocena, Grau.
Replacements: M. Contepomi, F. Contepomi, Fernandez-Miranda, Ostiglia, Ruiz, Canalda, Scelzo.
Referee: Derek Bevan (Wales)

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