France give Canada the boot in extra time
Jonathan Chassaing held his nerve to slot a straight forward penalty in the dying moments of extra time to see France clinch a pulsating Plate final in the World Rugby Classic.
Despite sheeting rain and filthy playing conditions on Saturday evening Les Bleus and a brave Canadian side showed huge enterprise and commitment during a titanic battle that see-sawed over 70 minutes of gruelling action.
It was the French who started the stronger, playing into a strong head wind, as they set up camp in the Canadian 22.
They reaped their reward after just five minutes of intense pressure and desperate Canadian defence when Goderzi Shvelidze piled over from close range to give the French the lead.
The conversion was duly added to make it 7-0, but Canada stormed back from the kick-off to launch attack after attack of their own.
Robin McDowell made the most of a loose pass as the ball was spread wide and cantered between defenders to score under the posts, to ensure the scores were tied.
Back came France again to retake the lead moments later when some nifty handling down the blind side sent Regis Senier over in the corner.
The ding dong contest took another twist just before half-time after some excellent work from James Buchanan set up a great attacking opportunity for the Canadians. From the resulting line-out a lovely little chip and chase was gathered by Morgan Finley to bring the scores level 12-12 at half-time.
The rain continued to lash down for the second half making a slippery ball difficult to handle and the breakdown a messy affair. But it did nothing to dampen the energy of the players who emptied the tank in an increasingly bruising encounter.
Despite their courageous efforts the sides could only muster a penalty a piece in the second half — the Canadian’s from the boot of McDowell coming with one of the last kicks of normal time. The penalty sent the tiring sets of players towards a further two gruelling halves of five minutes, with neither prepared to take a back seat.
While Canada spent much of the extra time period repelling French attacks, their superb defence held firm.
It was therefore left to Chassaing to provide the stake through Canadian hearts when he stepped up to slot home a penalty from in front of the posts with just a couple of minutes to play.
The Canadians launched one last surge towards the French line, but France just about held on to claim the spoils of a thoroughly absorbing and exciting Plate Final 18-15.
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