Honours shared: French B team overcome brave US
France 41, United States 14
Saturday 01 November 2003
Brian Liebenberg scored three tries as France completed a sweep of four World Cup group victories by beating the United States 41-14 today.
Prop Jean-Baptiste Poux and hooker and team captain Yannick Bru also crossed the American line at the WIN Stadium with Mike Hercus scoring a try and two conversions to take his total for the championship to a US record 51 points.
The French, who fielded most of their backup players, had already clinched top spot in Group B but became the first team in the 20-nation competition to win all four games. They will face either Australia or Ireland who meet in Melbourne tomorrow.
The Americans go home with just one win, against Japan, which ended a dismal record run of 10 losses. At least the victory means they now share that record with the Japanese.
Bru said his players tired in the second half.
"Most of the players who were at the game today are not used to playing," he said. "After a good first half our legs were very, very heavy. It was not easy because of the wind tonight.
"I think we are coming better physically and technically. Everything is better and better Saturday after Saturday. We hope that it will be a big surprise and the Wallabies will beat Ireland because I think it would be very hard to beat the Wallabies at home "
After going into halftime 26-0 ahead, the French only outscored the Eagles 15-14 in the second half.
"I suppose France was sitting back a little but it's only natural when you are up a little bit," American captain Dave Hodges when asked to explain his team's second half fightback.
"But we came out fairly well in the second half and I'm just proud of the effort the guys put in through the last 80 minutes."
"France are a class act and I think they'll go very far in the tournament. I think they are very skillful and they play with a lot of pace.
"I reckon, the way they're playing right now, and that was their second team playing the same way, I reckon they can go all the way to the final."
French coach Bernard Laporte fielded most of his backup players for the game while the Americans had a strongest available lineup.
Helped by the strong wind which had battered many parts of New South Wales during the day, the French dominated the first half and had the Americans in trouble for long spells.
Gerald Merceron kicked two early penalties before Liebenberg scored the first of his trio of tries in the 14th minute.
Elusive fullback Clement Poitrenaud pierced the American defense with a weaving run and the French had a double overlap, Liebenberg not needing David Bory to his left as he dived over.
Five minutes later South African-born center Liebenberg scored an action replay of his first try, arriving unchallenged to take a pass from Damien Traille and going over again.
American back row Dan Lyle, playing his sixth and maybe last World Cup for the Eagles, went off the field in a dazed condition in the 27th minute.
Dimitri Yachvili touched down in the corner after another great run by Poitrenaud but it was disallowed because the scrum half had his foot on the sideline before going over.
But tighthead prop Poux bulldozed over two minutes later with the forwards in command in front of the American line.
Merceron kicked a close range penalty in the final minute of the half and the French went into half time leading 26-0.
The Americans restarted with more aggression among the forwards and were rewarded with a Kort Schubert try in the third minute of the second half.
Two drives got the pack within an arms length of the tryline and, after they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts, they moved it quickly and back row Schubert ran unchallenged through a gap for his third try of the World Cup.
Hercus, who had kicked an American record 42 points going into the championship, improved on that by kicking the conversion.
Liebenberg completed his hattrick after Merceron had taken a pass on his toes and lofted a long ball out left to the center.
Hercus scored his second World Cup try in the 51st when center Phillip Eloff was held just short of the line. The ball was recycled to the flyhalf who dummied a pass, sneaked through the tiniest of gaps and crossed despite a despairing French tackle. He also converted.
Bru scored a fifth French try and his first after back row Sebastien Chabal had run at the American defense. He released to his captain who ran through a huge gap for the try. Merceron converted and the French led 38-14 with 26 minutes still to go.
Yachvili marked his first World Cup appearance with a well struck drop goal against the tricky wind
The French wound up with 14 on the field as Chabal was sent to the sinbin in the 75th minute for too many infringements.
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