France slip to Fiji defeat

France slipped to a disappointing defeat as they were beaten 21-14 by Fiji despite two tries from Guilhem Guirado.

France slipped to a disappointing defeat as they were beaten 21-14 by Fiji despite two tries from Guilhem Guirado.

With eight players in their starting line-up who ply their trade in France, Fiji clearly meant business and they played at an intensity that was tough to match for large periods.

Semi Radradra and Josua Tuisova crossed for two Fijian tries in the first half, and Ben Volavola added three crucial second-half penalties for a first-ever victory against Les Bleus.

The Fijians started very quickly, forcing France back into their own 22. They turned down an early shot at goal and could not quite work their way over, while Baptiste Serin was off-target with his first penalty attempt.

A charge by Radradra following an attacking lineout proved unstoppable as Fiji scored the first try, the centre powering through the tackle of Camille Lopez on his way to the line.

However Les Bleus responded with a powerful rolling maul as Guirado went over for his third try in as many games this November.

Serin converted to level the scores at 7-7, however on the half-hour Fiji were back in front. From first phase ball, Fiji shifted the ball wide to Vereniki Goneva and after he burst through the ball was shifted quickly out to Tuisova to cross in the corner. Volavola could not convert but the visitors led 12-7.

And they could have added a third shortly before the break when Goneva finished off a break on the counter, but it was ruled out for an offside by Radradra on the initial turnover.

Rather than trailing by two scores, it was instead France who hit back, Guirado helping himself to another try from a rolling maul after some extended French pressure.

Serin slotted the conversion from the left to leave the scores at 14-12 at the break.

Fiji started the second half as they had the first, with Volavola knocking over a penalty when Sébastien Vahaamahina was penalised for failing to roll away.

Soon after, France turned to their bench, with tighthead Demba Bamba coming on for his debut along with Antoine Dupont and Félix Lambey.

Volavola missed one shot at goal but rediscovered his radar to stretch the lead to four points after an hour.

The final 20 minutes were played for large parts in the Fijian 22, but Les Bleus could not find a way through, with Fiji almost sneaking a third try late on when Goneva hacked a loose ball forward only for Teddy Thomas to get back to deny him.

Still, that got Fiji into the position they wanted, and they sealed the win with a final Volavola penalty at the death.   Player watch: Mathieu Bastareaud   It was a tough evening for France, but centre Mathieu Bastareaud showed all his nous at the breakdown with a few key turnovers.

The French vice-captain also produced some clever footwork on a couple of powerful runs but it was not enough for France to turn things around.   Key moment   The final ten minutes saw France hammer away at the Fiji line without ever threatening to get over the whitewash.

The visitors were brilliant over the breakdown, and thumped back their opponents at every opportunity.

A final penalty gave France a chance to get over, but going back to their maul that had worked twice in the first half, they were held up and Fiji got the scrum, and then a penalty, to secure victory.   Stat Watch   – France had won all eight previous meetings between the two sides before this clash

– Demba Bamba became the first member of France’s World Cup-winning Under-20s side to win a full cap   – All of Fiji’s points were scored by players who ply their trade in France – Radradra (Bordeaux-Bègles), Tuisova (Toulon) and Volavola (Racing 92)