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France edge South Africa in titanic, controversial game in Marseille

By AAP
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France have beaten world champions South Africa by 30-26 in a brutal rugby Test in Marseille, completing a sweep of the southern hemisphere giants in the past year.

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Fabien Galthie’s side dug deep again a week after edging Australia by one point.

France threw away a 13-0 lead then rallied as tighthead prop Sipili Falatea burrowed over with minutes left and fullback Thomas Ramos landed a last-gasp penalty to give Les Tricolores a national record-extending 12th straight Test win.

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

Prop Cyril Baille’s first-half try and perfect goalkicking from Ramos seemed to have the French in control.

But inspirational captain Siya Kolisi’s converted try and a penalty from winger Cheslin Kolbe dragged the Springboks back, despite them playing a man down after flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit’s red card in the 14th minute.

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The num bers were evened when captain Antoine Dupont – the world player of the year – was red-carded in the 48th for clumsily taking out an airborne Kolbe. Kolbe landed on his neck, one of several bone-jarring 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, won by the Springboks.

But since beating New Zealand last November, the French have not looked back, sweeping the Six Nations and all else before them.

“It’s magnificent,” flanker Charles Ollivon said. “But we want to keep our feet on the ground because we know what our objective is.”

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He means winning the World Cup on home soil next year. France have never won it and lost three finals.

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

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Du Toit was sent off for a reckless ruck clearout which broke the eye socket of centre Jonathan Danty. Referee Wayne Barnes, on his recor d 101st Test to eclipse Nigel Owens, marched him and Du Toit was in tears on the bench.

Danty also left and Yoram Moefana moved into midfield as Sekou Macalou came on. France fullback Thomas Ramos slotted a second long-rang penalty and Baille broke two tackles to plant the ball one-handed on the line midway through the first half.

At this point, a rout appeared likely, but the world champions stemmed the blue tide and turned it.

Kolbe nailed a superb sideline kick from 54 metres to make it 13-3, and the French were asleep to a rolling maul as Kolisi darted over for a converted try.

The unflappable Ramos, however, landed another penalty on the buzzer for 16-10.

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

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

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

It was scarcely believable as Macalou’s superb break led to another penalty conceded when he failed to release the ball, and flyhalf Damian Willemse became his side’s third penalty kicker of the night.

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