Felipe Contepomi and company rounded off a World Cup to remember for Argentina as they beat tournament hosts France for the second time in the space of six weeks, winning comfortably by 34-10 in Friday’s third-fourth place play-off in Paris.
2007 WORLD CUP – 3RD-4TH PLACE PLAY-OFF: Friday, October 19
FRANCE 10 ARGENTINA 34, Parc des Princes (Att: 45,000)
Scorers: France: Try: Clement Poitrenaud; Con: Lionel Beauxis; Pen: Jean-Baptiste Elissalde
Argentina: Tries: Felipe Contepomi 2, Omar Hasan, Federico Martin Aramburu, Ignacio Corleto; Cons: Felipe Contepomi 3; Pen: Felipe Contepomi
IRB Player of the Year nominee Contepomi grabbed a personal tally of 19 points, taking his tournament haul to 91, as the Pumas gained a stirring victory which will only add to the clamour for them to be included a tournament such as the Six Nations or Tri-Nations.
The French, the reigning Six Nations champions, will be sick of the sight of Argentina. Marcelo Loffreda’s men were shock opening night winners over France in Saint-Denis and they repeated the trick in even more emphatic style in Friday’s bronze final – outscoring les Bleus by five tries to one.
French coach Bernard Laporte freshened up his starting line-up, making nine changes to the side he selected for the semi-final loss to England, and the home side put centre David Marty over for a try – only for play to be called back as Aurelien Rougerie had infringed when taking a quick lineout.
The first quarter was fractious at times. Indeed many of the players squaring up to each other hailed from the same club as a high percentage of the Argentinian squad ply their trade with French clubs.
Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Contepomi were successful with penalty kicks before France had another try ruled out as flanker Yannick Nyanga was called back for a forward pass.
An incredible burst of attacking rugby then saw the Pumas cross for two tries in the space of four minutes, completely turning the game on its head. A flowing move, inspired by Agustin Pichot and his meaty pack of forwards, allowed the fired-up Contepomi to nip over in the left corner and grab the game’s first try.
The French were hit with a sucker-punch second when a drop goal shot from Juan Martin Hernandez bounced back off a post and was regathered by the Pumas forwards. Hooker Alberto Vernet Basualdo made good yardage, bringing play up close to the French posts, before prop Omar Hasan burrowed over off second phase ball.
Contepomi converted both efforts for a sudden 17-3 lead for the Pumas and only some top notch defending from the South Americans kept Laporte’s men at bay as they lay siege to the Pumas’ try line in the closing stages of the first half.
Nyanga did get close but he dropped the ball as he tried to muscle over the whitewash and the half ended on a bad-tempered note when both France skipper Raphael Ibanez and Argentina lock Rimas Alvarez were sin-binned for foul play.
The Pumas picked off what was arguably the try of the tournament, certainly in a ‘team’ sense, ten minutes after the resumption. France coughed up possession as they probed the right flank and an exciting line-break by full-back Ignacio Corleto set the wheels in motion for the score.
He kept the move going by flinging a pass inside to Manuel Contepomi, whose stature helped him gather the ball and feed it on to the hard-working Patricio Albacete. Hernandez and Alvarez were also involved before winger Federico Martin Aramburu was sent scampering over in the right corner.
France sent for reinforcements and in his final run-out of the tournament, the enigmatic Sebastien Chabal was looking to make his mark off the bench. However, a dangerous shoulder charge on the Sale clubman from Argentinian replacement Juan Manuel Leguizamon almost saw him back on the touchline.
Leguizamon was sin-binned for the offence and France looked to have an avenue back into what was one of the matches of the tournament. Argentina had other ideas and it was game over for Laporte’s side when Corleto dashed 50 metres to the line having been set free by the fast-breaking Horacio Agulla.
A try from French full-back Clement Poitrenaud, twelve minutes from time, was little more than a consolation score for the hosts who disappointingly leaked another try in the closing minutes when Contepomi bagged his second touchdown of the night.
While it is sad to see a number of French internationals, including hooker Ibanez, end their Test careers on a losing note, full marks have to go to the Argentinians who raised their game superbly after the heartbreak of losing the semi-final last Sunday to South Africa.
Coach Loffreda, who will now take over the reins at Leicester Tigers, said: “We have lost only one game (in this World Cup) against South Africa. We couldn’t play for first place but today was very important for us.
“The players did a very good job. I am very happy, very proud of them. The pride, mentality and toughness were extremely important in this game.”
Talismanic scrum half Pichot, who was a deserved winner of the man of the match award, said: “I couldn’t think of a better way to end than this. I think it’s the end of a great period, a great time playing with the Argentine jersey.
“I’ll probably play one more time (with the Pumas) in Argentina to say goodbye but this is surely my last game in Europe. I’ve been part of a great, special group that will always be remembered as the Argentine 2007 rugby team.”