Contepomi's boot punishes Les Bleus

France 14 Argentina 24
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The Independent Online

The France coach Bernard Laporte freely conceded the European champions had not deserved to win as Argentina inflicted the first defeat on Les Blues since the 2003 World Cup loss to England yesterday. "We wanted to end 2004 unbeaten. It's over. We have to accept the lesson and draw the conclusions," Laporte said.

The France coach Bernard Laporte freely conceded the European champions had not deserved to win as Argentina inflicted the first defeat on Les Blues since the 2003 World Cup loss to England yesterday. "We wanted to end 2004 unbeaten. It's over. We have to accept the lesson and draw the conclusions," Laporte said.

Meanwhile Argentina, who are now the only team in the world to have beaten France four times in a row, were celebrating a result that captain Agustin Pichot described as "an important win for the future of Argentine rugby". "I hope that the world of rugby will now accept that Argentina can beat the best teams in the world and that we deserve to be ranked among the best," Pichot added.

Playing with a strong wind at their backs, the Pumas led 19-5 at half-time, with their fly-half, Felipe Contepomi, contributing four penalties and converting a try by the flanker Martin Durand. The French also scored a try, by the centre Tony Marsh, but the prop Omar Hasan sealed the Pumas' win in the dying minutes of the game.

The 60,000-capacity crowd had treated the French to a vibrant Marseillaise, but it was the Pumas who seized territorial advantage from the kick-off. Contepomi opened the scoring with his first penalty attempt, and made it 6-0 10 minutes later. Although denied a try by the video referee, Argentina pressed on and Durand crossed the line following a five-metre scrum.

The French then launched a wave of attacks, with Marsh finishing off the work 10 minutes before the break. But the French were losing too much possession and they paid the price as Contepomi added three more penalty kicks.

At 19-11 with 20 minutes to go, the crowd started to roar Les Bleus forward and the physical power of the French pack started to take its toll on the Pumas. Frédéric Michalak grabbed three more points after a try was disallowed at the foot of the post.

The crowd still believed that a miracle would save the French, but it was too late, and Hasan's try sealed a famous victory after a series of rolling mauls on the French line just before the whistle.

Argentina's coach Marcelo Loffredo felt his team had deserved the victory, saying: "I think that the French didn't play at their best because we put a lot of pressure on them and stopped them from developing their wide game."

France: N Brusque; A Rougerie, T Marsh, Y Jauzion, C Heymans; F Michalak, J-B Elissalde; O Milloud, W Servat, S Marconnet, F Pelous, J Thion, S Betsen, O Magne, I Harinordoquy.

Replacements: S Bruno, N Mas, P Pape, J Bonnaire, J Peyrelongue, C Poitrenaud, J Marlu.

Argentina: J Martin Hernandez; L Borges, M Aramburu, M Contepomi, H Senillosa; F Contepomi, A Pichot (capt); R Roncero, M Ledesma, O Hasan, P Albacete, R Alvarez, M Durand, L Ostiglia, G Longo Elia.

Replacements: F Mendez, R Rodriquez, P Bouza, M Schusterman, N Fernandez Miranda, J de la Cruz, J Fernandez Miranda.

Referee: J Kaplan (South Africa).

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