France were the second team in a week to find Canada a tough pool opponent before they came through to win 41-18 at Stadium MK .
28,145 fans were packed into the venue for a record crowd and they were treated to another entertaining 80 minutes as the underdog once again stood up tall.
But France’s power would eventually tell as they won thanks to tries from Wesley Fofana, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani, Pascal Papé and Rémy Grosso.
In reply Canada’s try-scorers were the in-form DTH van der Merwe and Aaron Carpenter and they can take plenty of confidence into facing Romania next week.
Conditions were perfect and it didn’t take long for France to break the Canadian defence and the architect was man of the match Frédéric Michalak, as he stepped through some weak tackling from scrum-half Phil Mack before sending out a back-handed offload to his centre Fofana for the score. Michalak’s conversion made it a 7-0 buffer.
Canada settled admirably after that error on three minutes and would enjoy a decent slice of territory for ten minutes until les Bleus struck again, this time from the boot of Michalak after Canada were pinged for illegal scrummaging. Michalak looked full of confidence at this point.
In contrast Canada lost their inspirational captain Tyler Ardron to a knee injury before the 20-minute mark and they will hope he recovers in time for Tuesday’s fixture against Romania in Leicester, a game targeted as must-win as they look to finish fourth in what’s been a tough pool.
Back to the action and France sensed blood and flexed their muscle but it was again the class of Michalak coming to the fore, as he rolled back the years with another break before chipping inside for Fofana. Unfortunately for the duo this time their combination did not bear another try.
The second try wasn’t too far in coming and this time it was the power of France that created it, with Guirado at the back of a maul for 17-0.
Canada however showed real fighting spirit and hit back from the restart as Ciaran Hearn leapt highest before recycled ball found Van der Merwe wide on the left. The wing ran closer to the posts in the in-goal to hand Nathan Hirayama a simpler conversion, which he made to make it 17-7.
On 34 minutes, it was game on as Canada further reduced the deficit to just five points as hooker Carpenter powered over from five metres out, with Stadium MK rocking as the tries kept coming, this time from France tighthead prop Slimani from another maul to make it a 24-12 advantage.
Canada would not go away after the break and were wise to the take the points on 42 minutes after a scrum offence from France, Hirayama cutting the gap to 24-15, before they kept France well out of striking range for a long spell. In fact, it was they who were in the opposition red zone.
France looked out of sorts and it mirrored Michalak’s performance as being starved of decent ball meant les Bleus were a shadow of their first-half showing, with Canada continuing to chip away at the scoreline. This time their points came following an offside, with Hirayama on target.
Michalak finally managed to open his side’s second-half account off the tee on the hour mark after a breakdown offence, with that decision to kick for posts instead of the corner a clear sign from captain Thierry Dusautoir that he feared that Canada might just pull off a major shock.
At 27-18 he wasn’t quite so conservative and with seventeen minutes remaining the French looked to apply the squeeze in the Canadian 22. Kieran Crowley’s men were tenacious in defence however and spirited tackling on their try-line denied centre Mathieu Bastareaud the bonus-point score.
It only delayed the inevitable. Brute force from France won through and it was second-row Papé reaching out to complete the job before Grosso went over wide out ahead of facing Ireland at Millennium Stadium in what is likely to be the pool decider. French supporters will hope they have saved plenty in the tank for that one.
France – 41
Tries : Wesley Fofana (3′), Guilhem Guirado (27′), Rabah Slimani (37′), Pascal Papé (66′), Remy Grosso(73′)
Penalties : Frederic Michalak (x2)
Cons : Frederic Michalak (x4) , Morgan Parra (x1)
Canada – 18
Tries : DTH Van Der Merwe (30′), Aaron Carpenter (33′)
Penalties : Nathan Hirayama(x2)
Cons : Nathan Hirayama (x1)
Yellow Card: Nanyak Dala (72′)
- France: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Rémy Grosso, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Brice Dulin, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Yannick Nyanga, 20 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Remi Tales, 23 Alexandre Dumoulin.
- Canada: 15 Matt Evans, 14 Phil Mackenzie, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Nick Blevins, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Nathan Hirayama, 9 Phil Mack, 8 Tyler Ardron (c), 7 Richard Thorpe, 6 Kyle Gilmour, 5 Jamie Cudmore, 4 Brett Beukeboom, 3 Doug Wooldridge, 2 Aaron Carpenter, 1 Hubert Buydens.
Replacements: 16 Ray Barkwill, 17 Djustice Sears-Duru, 18 Andrew Tiedemann, 19 Evan Olmstead, 20 Nanyak Dala, 21 Gordon McRorie, 22 Harry Jones, 23 Conor Trainor.
- Date: Thursday, October 1
- Venue: Stadium MK, Milton Keynes
- Referee: JP Doyle (England)
- Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Angus Gardner (Australia)
- TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
- Full Pool Previews – Click Individual Pool Below