France served up a performance that will give England head coach Eddie Jones cause for concern and optimism by condemning Argentina to a 10th win a row.
From 20-3 up at half-time France had their lead cut to 20-18 then survived a nerve shredding final few minutes when fly-half Romain Ntamack missed a penalty to nail down the game and Puma full-back Emiliano Boffelli missed one to steal it.
Clichés are clichés because they are true and the French played up to theirs and Jones will not have a clue which France will turn up when they meet in the last round of Pool C on 12 October.
This was typical maddening France, brilliant in the first half, petulant and seemingly off the boil in the second half before Lopez dropped a goal with 69 minutes gone to make it 23-21.
Then came then mad last few minutes which boiled over into a scuffle when referee Angus Gardner blew the final whistle.
The win also gave the former scrum-half Fabien Galthie, now on the French coaching staff, bragging rights after his fall-out with Argentina’s head coach Mario Ledesma after a dispute when they worked together in club rugby.
A two try burst in four minutes at the end of the first quarter sounded alarm bells for the Pumas as centre Gael Fickou and scrum-half Antoine Dupont went over for scores with wing Damian Penaud involved in both
It was the 22-year-old’s snaking run down the left hand side that dented the Puma defence in the 18th minute before the ball was switched left and Fickou twisted over.
Then Dupont was on the end of some more slick French handling with full-back Maxime Medard coming into the line to feed Penaud who provided the scoring pass.
Ledesma and Galthie had a row when the Argentine was coaching at Montpellier under the former scrum-half when the pair’s styles of coaching clashed and the row ended up in a physical set-to.
Galthie, who will take over as head coach on a four-year deal after this tournament, left the club at the end of 2014 but not before Ledesma had been shown the door and the feud still simmers on so the former scrum-half is one-up.
Ledesma is a former hooker and would have been mortified at his side’s lack of punch up front in the recent Rugby Championship and it took them 42 minutes to discover it again here.
They trailed 20-3 at half-time after that French double whammy but then went back to what they did best in the good old days of Puma forward play.
Fly-half Nicholas Sanchez kicked a penalty to touch, the ball was secured and after a huge push over the line second row Guido Petti came up smiling.
Then in the 53rd minute they repeated with another driving line out that ended up with replacement hooker Julian Montoya claiming the five-pointer. After the French dominance in the first half it was game on at 20-15 before it was even more game on at 23-21 and Boffelli had his long range chance.
The game had more of a knock out feel out to it than the day’s other heavyweight clash between New Zealand and South Africa down the road in Yokohama. They should both qualify but with England in this group, along with Tonga and USA, Argentina face a long road back to make the last eight.
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