France make heavy work of win over USA
FRANCE made heavy work of it at times but finished strongly to secure their second win of the Rugby World Cup with a bonus-point 33-9 victory over the United States on Wednesday.
Tries from wingers Yoann Huget and Alivereti Raka in the first 24 minutes looked like setting the three-times World Cup finalists on their way to a handsome Pool C victory at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium.
The Americans were much better than in their 45-7 opening loss to England, however, and three AJ MacGinty penalties had them within three points at 12-9 after 64 minutes as the French succumbed to errors and ill-discipline.
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France, much changed from the side that beat Argentina in their first match, finally got their third try through centre Gael Fickou 13 minutes from time and replacements Baptiste Serin and Jefferson Poirot added two more in the last 10 minutes.
The bonus win put France second just behind England in Pool C ahead of Les Bleus' third match against Tonga in Kumamoto on Sunday, but Eddie Jones's side may have few concerns after this French performance.
Captained by veteran No.8 Louis Picamoles, France started with 12 changes from the side that won a cliffhanger against Argentina in their opener last week, with coach Jacques Brunel opting for experience over youth in key positions.
Yet for much of the match they played like they barely knew each other, with only the pinpoint kicking of Camille Lopez a threat to the Americans' defences.
A deft dink from the wily five-eighth in front of the posts set up winger Huget to run onto the ball and cross for the opening try in the sixth minute.
He later found his other winger Raka sprinting to the right corner with a sumptuous cross-kick for their second try in the 24th minute.
Between those scores, there was little to buoy frustrated France fans as passes were spilled or flew wide and it was instead the Americans who were driving forward as they capitalised on French indiscipline through the boot of five- eighth MacGinty.
It took replacement halfback Serin to stop the rot and his decision-making proved key.
He hurled the ball wide from a ruck five metres from the line and Fickou celebrated his 50th cap by bursting through two defenders to score in the 67th minute.
Moments later, Serin scampered away from the wearying Eagles to seal the match and cap a brilliant cameo.
FRANCE 33 (Gael Fickou, Yoann Huget, Jefferson Poirot, Alivereti Raka, Baptiste Serin tries Camille Lopez 3, Thomas Ramos cons) bt USA 9 (AJ MacGinty 3 pens) at Level5 Stadium. Referee: Ben O'Keeffe