Birthday boy Jalibert guides France to Argentina win

·4-min read

Fly-half Matthieu Jalibert celebrated his 23rd birthday by setting-up two tries as France beat Argentina 29-20 on Saturday in their opening November Test.

Jalibert assisted debutant Thibaud Flament and hooker Peato Mauvaka in the second half as Les Bleus claimed their first win over the Pumas in Paris since 2006.

Toulouse's Antoine Dupont, regarded by many as the world's best scrum-half, led his country for the first time in the absence of the injured Charles Ollivon.

"We started the match by making too many mistakes. It's what allowed them to come into our territory," Dupont told France Television.

"We found it hard to keep the ball in attack but when we managed to hold the ball for three, four phases, we made it difficult for them. The victory is there, but I think we're capable of much better."

Dupont was joined at half-back by Bordeaux-Begles' Jalibert with regular outside half Romain Ntamack moving across to centre with Virimi Vakatawa and Arthur Vincent out with fitness issues.

Argentina coach Mario Ledesma started Santiago Carreras at fly-half with Nicolas Sanchez only fit enough to make the bench.

"We didn't respect the strategy that we planned throughout the week," Ledesma said.

"We created a lot of chances. We need to take them so to win games."

More than 50,000 of the 80,000 tickets available at the Stade de France were sold as the home side played in front of a home crowd for the first time since February 2020.

Full-back Melvyn Jaminet, making his fourth Test appearance but first on home soil, was perfect with his long-range effort after Dupont's first intervention as skipper as he chose to take the points.

Jaminet doubled the advantage, to 6-0, after 18 minutes following Dupont's break.

Pumas full-back Emiliano Boffelli failed to cut the deficit to three points by missing a penalty half way through the first half.

From the subsequent 22m drop-out Argentina led as Boffelli converted scrum-half Tomas Cubelli's try as Pablo Matera had blocked Jalibert's attempted restart.

France led 9-7 at the break as Jaminet reached the 50-point mark for his country with a penalty goal as home hooker Julian Marchand and Pumas flanker Marcos Kremer were shown yellow cards for a scuffle after a scrum.

The second half started at a bright pace as Les Bleus finally managed to advance in the contact area against sturdy Argentina tackling but trailed after 48 minutes following Boffelli's long-range penalty.

Boffelli's three points failed to stop the hosts' momentum and Fabien Galthie's side crossed the Argentina whitewash with half an hour left as the benefit of the Jalibert-Ntamack combination showed its worth.

The fly-half sparked the try with the centre distracting the defence as Jalibert fed lock Flament, who spent a season at Club Newman in Argentina's top-flight during his university studies, to gallop over.

- 'Jalimack' over -

Galthie's side were denied the chance to extend their deserved lead and to control the fixture as the video referee ruled out skipper Dupont's try for a knock-on by Jaminet.

With 25 minutes to play, Galthie chose to end the Jalibert-Ntamack partnership, nicknamed 'Jalimack' by the French press, as the playmaking centre was replaced by stocky La Rochelle midfielder Jonathan Danty.

Boffelli cut the gap to 16-13 with a quarter remaining with another shot at goal before Jaminet responded with an effort to regain the six-point lead.

Flament, who finished as his side's leading tackler on 11, was substituted with 10 minutes left for Sekou Macalou before Jalibert sealed the win with another pass.

The outside-half attacked the Pumas defence before off-loading cleanly from the ground for Mauvaka and Jaminet's conversion made it 26-13 with eight minutes to play.

Ledesma's men claimed a late consolation as Mateo Carrera, fly-half Santiago's younger brother opened his Test account with a 78th minute try, but they lost a seventh straight match.

Next weekend Galthie's side host Georgia in Bordeaux as the Pumas head to Italy.

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