Birthday boy Jalibert guides France to win
MATCH REPORT: Flyhalf 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 scrumhalf, led his country for the first time in the absence of the injured Charles Ollivon.
He was joined at halfback by Bordeaux-Begles’ Jalibert with regular flyhalf Romain Ntamack moving across to centre with Virimi Vakatawa and Arthur Vincent out with fitness issues.
Argentina coach Mario Ledesma started Santiago Carreras at flyhalf with Nicolas Sanchez only fit enough to make the bench.
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.
Fullback 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 fullback Emiliano Boffelli failed to cut the deficit to three points by missing a penalty halfway through the first half.
From the subsequent 22-metre 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 flank 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 flyhalf 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.
Galthie’s side was 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 13-16, 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 flyhalf 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, flyhalf Santiago’s younger brother opened his Test account with a 78th-minute try.
Next weekend Galthie’s side host Georgia in Bordeaux as the Pumas head to Ireland, where they have yet to win in nine visits.
Tries: Flament, Mauvaka
Cons: Jaminet 2
Pens: Jaminet 5
Tries: Cubelli, Carreras
Cons: Boffelli, Sanchez
Pens: Boffelli 2
France: 15 Melvyn Jaminet, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Romain Ntamack, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont (captain), 8 Anthony Jelonch, 7 Cameron Woki, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Jean-Baptise Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Gregory Alldritt, 21 Sekou Macalou, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Jonathan Danty.
Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Rodrigo Martinez, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Lucio Cinti.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)