Rugby Union: Tactical Argentina stun France in Paris 18-13

France's fly half Camille Lopez kicks the ball during the international rugby test match France versus Argentina on Nov 22, 2014 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. Argentina produced a tactical masterclass to beat France 18-13 at
France's fly half Camille Lopez kicks the ball during the international rugby test match France versus Argentina on Nov 22, 2014 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. Argentina produced a tactical masterclass to beat France 18-13 at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday. -- PHOTO: AFP 

PARIS (AFP) - Argentina produced a tactical masterclass to beat France 18-13 at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday.

The Pumas scored four drop goals and dominated the majority of a turgid contest to end their November tour on a high.

France came within inches of snatching a potentially match-winning try deep into added time, but South African-born full-back Scott Spedding was held up over the line.

Had they scored that, and converted it to snatch an unlikely victory, it would have been hard on an enterprising Argentina that dominated in almost every aspect of the game and aligned an almost impenetrable light-blue and white wall in front of France's runners.

It was their first win in France since the 2007 World Cup, and richly deserved.

The hosts may have come into the clash brimming with confidence following wins over Fiji (40-15) and Australia (29-26) but they were given a tactical lesson in the first half.

Argentina fly-half Nicolas Sanchez and inside centre Juan Martin Hernandez dominated with precise kicking, while the tourists rumbled well with their forwards and broke quickly in the backs.

They needed only a minute to force the first penalty as France were penalised for holding on, and Sanchez kicked the first three points.

Right wing Juan Imhoff, who plays for Racing-Metro in Paris, almost scored a try on five minutes as Argentina exploited the space left by an injury to France right wing Yoann Huget, who was receiving on-field treatment, but Spedding got across to knock the Puma into touch just before he grounded the ball.

France fly-half Camille Lopez missed a penalty attempt on 12 minutes and five minutes later, Sanchez landed a long-range drop goal to stretch their lead to 6-0.

Argentina lost outside centre Marcelo Bosch and No.8 Leonardo Senatore to injury but they continued to control proceedings.

Lopez hit the post with his second penalty attempt before Sanchez landed his third kick after a long range Imhoff counter.

Argentina then started to humiliate France with Hernandez and Sanchez in the space of two minutes each knocking over a drop goal to open up a 15-0 lead - and this from a team soundly beaten 41-31 by Scotland two weeks ago.

Every time Argentina got in range of the French line, they were coming away with three points.

France were desperate and twice passed up penalty opportunities in preference of kicking to the corner.

But they wasted the first when captain Thierry Dusautoir knocked-on, while the second resulted in another penalty from a more kickable position, which Lopez opted to take and finally, on 37 minutes, he got France on the scoreboard.

But the hosts should have come away with a try on the stroke of half-time, only for Huget to greedily hold on following a mazy run instead of popping the ball to his support, who surely would have scored.

It was more of the same at the start of the second period as, although Sanchez missed a penalty, he knocked over his side's fourth drop goal of the night on 46 minutes.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre brought on South African-born scrum-half Rory Kockott, who missed a penalty from halfway but generally sped up the home side's play.

They were rewarded on 57 minutes after a long passage of possession as Wesley Fofana twisted over the line to score the only try of the game.

Lopez converted from wide right but Kockott took over kicking duties on 64 minutes to land a penalty that brought the score back to 18-13.

The tide was turning but France failed to turn a late spell of pressure into a winning score.