France dig deep to beat world champions South Africa 30-26

MARSEILLE, France (AP) — France threw away a 13-0 lead against world champion South Africa and then won a brutal 30-26 contest on Saturday to complete a sweep of the southern hemisphere giants last year.

Fabien Galthie’s side dug deep again a week after beating Australia by a point. Sipili Falatea scored in the dying minutes and full-back Tomas Ramos converted a last-gasp penalty to give Les Tricolores a national-record 12th straight victory.

“I don’t know if we’re undefeated,” Anthony Jelonch said. “But last week we could have lost again tonight, but we didn’t.”

Cyril Baille’s first-half effort and a perfect goal from Ramos looked to have the French in control.

But captain Siya Kolisi’s inspired effort and winger Cheslin Kolb’s penalty dragged the Springboks back despite playing a man down after flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit was sent off in the 14th minute.

The scores were leveled when captain Antoine Dupont – the world player of the year – was red-carded in the 48th for clumsily clearing an airborne Kolbe. Kolbe landed on his neck, one of several tumultuous moments in an intense encounter.

France had not beaten South Africa since 2009 and Galthie had never faced them since taking charge after the 2019 World Cup, which the Springboks won.

But since beating New Zealand last November, the French haven’t looked back, sweeping the Six Nations and everything else before them.

“It’s great,” said Charles Olivon. “But we want to keep our feet on the ground because we know what our goal is.”

It means winning the World Cup at home next year. France have never won it and lost three finals.

They were fired up for it at Marseille’s passionate Stade Velodrome.

The fans turned off “La Marseillaise” and France started on the front foot, matching South Africa’s physicality and leading Faf de Klerk to an offside penalty which was penalized by Ramos for 3-0.

“Marseille is just incredible,” Olivon said. “It’s incredible to play here.”

The Springboks then made it more difficult for themselves.

Du Toit was sent off for a reckless spell that smashed center Jonathan Danty’s socket. Umpire Wayne Barnes, on his record 101st Test to eclipse Nigel Owens, marched him off and Du Toi broke down in tears on the bench.

Danty also left and Yoram Moefana – Falatea’s nephew, no less – moved into midfield as Sekou Macalou came on. Ramos hit another long-range header and Bay broke two tackles to one-handed the ball over the line midway through the first half.

At this point, a clash seemed likely, but the world champions stemmed the blue tide and turned it around.

Kolbe nailed a superb onside kick from 54 meters to make it 13-3 and the French were sleeping on a roll as Kolisi raced over for a conversion.

The steadfast Ramos, however, made another penalty at the buzzer for 16-10.

Kolbe and Ramos traded more penalties early in the second half.

After Dupont’s red, the Springboks team bullied France and released winger Kurt-Lee Arendse in the right corner. De Klerk’s conversion from the right wing put them ahead for the first time with 52 minutes played.

“I don’t think we’ve ever played against forwards that are that strong,” Jelonch said.

De Klerk added a penalty only for Ramos to hit his sixth straight kick to make it a one-point game with 20 minutes to play.

It was hardly believable as Makalu’s superb break led to another penalty being conceded when he failed to clear the ball and fly-half Damian Willemse became his side’s third penalty taker of the night.

More drama ensued when hooker Deon Fourie was sent off with 10 minutes left and Mathieu Jalibert came on for Romain Ntamack.

Jalibert’s only contribution was to throw the ball out to the loudest cheer of a raucous evening.


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