France 33-9 USA: Les Bleus labour past Eagles in Rugby World Cup Pool C
France battle to nervy win in game that was still in the balance with 15 minutes left
Last Updated: 02/10/19 11:04am
France made it two wins from two in Rugby World Cup Pool C, but were seriously made to sweat by the USA in their ultimate 33-9 success.
First-half tries from wings Yoann Huget and Alivereti Raka had France in control at 12-3, but the boot of AJ MacGinty kept the USA in touch, reducing the deficit to 12-9 with just 15 minutes left in Fukuoka.
Further tries from centre Gael Fickou and replacement scrum-half Baptiste Serin in the remaining time allowed France to breathe easy and belatedly collect the try bonus-point, while a Jefferson Poirot maul try in the final minute of play inflated the scoreline further.
France are next in action on Sunday when they take on Tonga in Kumamoto, while the USA face Argentina on Wednesday October 9 in Kumagaya.
France coach Jacques Brunel made 12 changes to the team that began the tournament with a 23-21 win over Argentina and for an hour they looked a disjointed outfit.
Led for the first time by veteran No 8 Louis Picamoles, on his 81st appearance, the French made the best possible start when fly-half Camille Lopez chipped over the States' defence for winger Huget to open the scoring.
Full-back Thomas Ramos added the conversion to make it 7-0 but Sale Sharks favourite MacGinty's penalty goal kept the minnows in touch.
Another precision kick from Lopez, this time lofted to the corner, enabled right-wing Raka to score a well-executed try that extended France's lead to 12-3 but that only served to harden the resolve of the gutsy USA team, who rallied superbly following their 45-7 defeat by England.
Another MacGinty penalty, as France continued to lose their discipline, made it 12-6 at the break and Brunel's men missed a glorious chance nine minutes into the second half when Raka was denied a second try for a forward pass by centre Sofiane Guitoune.
The crowd sensed a major shock when MacGinty kicked a third penalty to cut the deficit to just three points but France eased the pressure on 67 minutes when Fickou, one of just four players to keep their places from the opening game, sliced through for a much-needed try.
Lopez's conversion made it 19-9 and France cut loose in the last 10 minutes with two further tries from their replacements.
Scrum-half Serin finished off a break by Raka and prop Poirot forced his way over from a driving maul, with Lopez adding both conversions.
In the end it was mission accomplished but Brunel will be looking for an improvement when his side take on Tonga on Sunday before meeting Eddie Jones' men on Saturday week for a clash that could determine the pool winners.