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Clerc scores two tries as France beats Argentina

Associated Press

11/17/2012 5:54:43 PM

LILLE, France -- France followed its thrashing of Australia with a convincing 39-22 win against Argentina on Saturday, as prolific winger Vincent Clerc scored two tries and flanker Yannick Nyanga got the other after an early scare.

The Pumas carved through midfield and centre Marcelo Bosch scored a converted try in the fifth minute. Backup goalkicker Nicolas Sanchez added two penalties to stretch their lead to 13-3.

Last weekend, France routed the Wallabies 33-6 and Argentina stunned Six Nations champion Wales 26-12.

But there was no repeat for Argentina as Clerc's clinical streak took his international tally to 34 tries and within four of Serge Blanco's national record.

"We started the match poorly and didn't show the same commitment we had against Australia," Clerc said. "They got us on the back foot but then we were more aggressive and imposed our game on them."

In a physical encounter, France lock Pascal Pape left at halftime with blood pouring from a cut above his left eyebrow.

Argentina got on top right away, exposing some lacklustre defending to advance 40 metres with ease before Bosch gratefully accepted an offload to score almost unchallenged.

France's first try had a hint of good fortune, with centre Maxime Mermoz blindly throwing the ball behind him. Clerc sensed the chance, snatching the loose ball near the left wing and darting inside.

"We reacted well and kept going. The second half wasn't as good but we did the main thing and got another win, so let's not stop here," France No. 8 Louis Picamoles said ahead of next weekend's final autumn test against Samoa.

"We get on well together and we want to show it out on the pitch. Samoa will be very, very hard to beat. They showed that by beating Wales yesterday."

France has three straight wins for the first time since last year's World Cup, where it reached the final. It aims to be among the top four seeds for the 2015 World Cup when the draw is made next month -- thus avoiding the southern hemisphere favourites in the group stage.

"Obviously I'm very happy to get two wins against southern hemisphere sides, especially when you see that no other northern nation can do it at the moment," France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said. "You can see that everyone plays for the team in our squad. But we will stay humble because we have a difficult match at Stade de France next week."

Clerc is the Top 14's top scorer and showed just why on his second try midway through the first half. He had great awareness to anticipate midfielder Florian Fritz's kick ahead, judged the bounce of the ball well, and used his speed to do the rest.

Nyanga then got his fifth international try, and first since the 2007 World Cup, in the 31st breaking two tackles before galloping 30 metres.

Flyhalf Frederic Michalak, making a third successive start for the first time in six years, plunked on five penalties and a dropped goal to tally 24 and reach 310 points for France.

Sanchez added two further penalties and a dropped goal of his own in the second half.

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France 39 (Vincent Clerc 2, Yannick Nyanga tries; Frederic Michalak 3 conversions, 5 penalties, dropped goal), Argentina 22 (Marcelo Bosch try; Nicolas Sanchez conversion, 4 penalties, dropped goal). HT: 24-13.