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France beats Samoa to secure top-4 seeding for World Cup

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Associated Press
11/24/2012 3:23:37 PM
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PARIS -- France survived a good scare from Samoa to clip out a 22-14 win on Saturday and achieve its first sweep of the autumn rugby tests in seven years.

Samoa scored two tries to one, both of them earning the lead. The Manu led 14-13 going into the last quarter but they were already conceding too many penalties and flyhalf Frederic Michalak kicked over three more of them to seal France's victory.

France also beat Australia and Argentina this month to secure a top-four seeding for the 2015 World Cup draw on Dec. 3. Samoa, meanwhile, earned a top-eight ranking and a potentially easier draw.

"We set ourselves this aim of three wins and we got it," France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said. "Today, our spirit won it for us because we really knew how to react after their first try.

"You have to congratulate Samoa which has a team which is progressing and winning its battles. The match was hard, with a lot of strategies. Our group is still progressing. Competition for places is stronger than ever and that's good for the France team."

Michalak scored all but three of the home team's points at Stade de France.

The last the French won all of their November tests was in 2005, against Australia, Canada, Tonga and South Africa.

Manu Samoa, 43-5 losers the last time they were in Paris in 2009, were full of confidence after outplaying Wales 26-19 in Cardiff last week. And they took the lead in the 15th minute when midfielder Johnny Leota's kick was scooped up by winger Robert Lilomaiava, who fed captain and fullback David Lemi for the try.

Tusi Pisi converted but France was back level just four minutes later as Michalak broke on the counter and ended up diving between the posts. He picked himself up to convert his own try.

Scrumhalf Morgan Parra missed a 40-meter penalty attempt but moments later he gave France the lead with another penalty shot from near the halfway line.

However, the visitors were back in front three minutes after the break after lock Joe Tekori, who plies his trade in France with Castres, placed the ball at the base of the right post following a scramble. Pisi converted and Samoa looked the more likely to score again at 14-10 up as France appeared tired.

However, Les Bleus reduced the deficit to a point in the 57th as Michalak kicked a penalty from 35 metres and he grabbed the lead at 16-14 just after the hour mark with another penalty.

Pisi missed a goalkick wide of the left post, while Michalak extended France's lead eight minutes from time.

Samoa, which gave away 13 penalties to nine, conceded another needlessly two minutes from time and Michalak again proved faultless before the No. 10 made a rare mistake, with another penalty shot which fell short.

Yannick Nyanga and Vincent Clerc  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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