The French national rugby team’s dream shattered abruptly.

Comme à Durban, les Bleus méritaient de l’emporter mais ce sont les Springboks qui affronteront l’Angleterre, dernier représentant de l’hémisphère Nord, samedi (21h), en demi-finale.

Comme à Durban, les Français n’ont pas été aidés par l’arbitre. Le Néo-Zélandais Ben O’Keeffe, qui a officié ce dimanche, n’est pas le Gallois…

Comme à Durban, les Bleus méritaient de l’emporter mais ce sont les Springboks qui affronteront l’Angleterre, dernier représentant de l’hémisphère Nord, samedi (21h), en demi-finale.

Like in Durban, the French were not helped by the referee. The New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe, who officiated on Sunday, is not the Welsh Derek Bevan from ’95, and the defeat of Stade de France will probably be easier to swallow than that of Pierre Berbizier’s team, sacrificed on the altar of the necessary South African victory to heal the wounds of Apartheid.

L’en-avant suspect d’Etzebeth

But how can we not dwell on this deliberate forward pass by Etzebeth that deprived France of a second try (7)? It happened three minutes after Baille’s opening score, the spearhead of a devastating French pack (7-0, 4). A (lack of) refereeing decision that ultimately allowed the South Africans to equalize one minute later with a try from Arendse following a high kick from Reinach (7-7, 8). It’s a perfect example of going from a potential 14-0 lead to a 7-7 tie.

Mais ce n’était pas M. O’Keeffe qui était à la réception des chandelles sud-africaine, gros point noir de la première période côté français. Le sélectionneur des Boks Jacques Nienaber avait ciblé le secteur du « petit » Bielle-Biarrey pilonné à grands coups de pied de Reinach et Libbok. Même le « grand » Woki s’est retrouvé en difficulté sous une ogive qui a permis à De Allende de faire le break (7-12, 18).

Ces failles dans le jeu aérien ont gâché une première période pourtant bien maîtrisée par des Bleus au rendez-vous du combat physique promis. C’est avec cette détermination qu’ils sont revenus dans le match grâce à un essai Mauvaka (12-12, 29). Comme Libbok avant lui, Ramos n’a pas transformé.

After Kolbe’s attempt following a turnover (12-19, 26), it was Baille who emerged from a ruck to equalize (19-19, 31).

Underpaid in their dominance and punished for all their mistakes by Kolbe and the supersonic backs of South Africa, France relied on Ramos’ kicking to make a minibreak (22-19, 40+1; 25-19, 53). Taking advantage of Etzebeth’s yellow card for a head contact with Atonio (40).

Plus d’essence dans le moteur

Less inspired at the back, France took the lead thanks to the accuracy of its forwards, starting with its back row and a magnificent Olivon. But a six-point lead at the end of a long period of dominance was little, too little when the fuel started to run out in the engine. The « finishers », who had seemed shaky in the first round against Uruguay, struggled to reach the stratospheric level of the Boks.

Un essai d’Etzebeth a permis aux Sud-Africains de repasser devant (25-26, 67) et le doute s’est alors diffusé dans tout un stade qui, comme les Bleus, a cherché en vain un second souffle dans cette atmosphère irrespirable.

Two minutes later, Pollard scored three more points on a penalty after a questionable raking by Etzebeth (25-29, 69). The crowd at Stade de France may have grumbled upon seeing the replay on the big screen, but the New Zealand referee paid no attention to it.

Carried by an entire nation, the Blues then made every effort. They came back to within one point thanks to Ramos’ kick (28-29, 79th minute) but the final possession in the opposing camp, the one for victory, was delayed until extra time.

Jusqu’à ce ballon volé dans les bras de Wardi (80+1) synonyme d’une défaite au goût amer comme ce tour d’honneur sans saveur dans un stade de France sonné, hagard. KO debout comme le XV de France.

« It’s going to be difficult to accept. »

Matthieu Jalibert, the fly-half of the French national rugby team, speaking on TF1: « It’s difficult to know what to say. There was definitely an opportunity, it was a beautiful rugby match between two strong teams that went blow for blow. We had moments in the second half where we could have scored and taken the lead, but we couldn’t do it. We also have to congratulate the All Blacks who, in a challenging situation, resisted our attacks and scored when they had the chance. So there is a lot of disappointment and frustration. When we see the atmosphere that was there again, yes, we are disappointed. What makes us the saddest is that we were not able to make them proud and happy. We can try to find some positives by saying that there are quite a few young players, a talented generation, but the truth is that we failed in the quarter-finals of our World Cup and it will be hard to accept. »
François Cros (third row of the French national rugby team): « We are definitely saddened by this result, this cruel scenario. I don’t even have the words, it’s a shame for us, for the team, for the event, for the fans who support us, it’s very, very tough. We didn’t give up throughout the entire match, we had put in the effort, but it’s true that we conceded points too easily, and, to make matters worse, that last action where we made the effort and weren’t rewarded. It’s cruel. Regardless of the explanations we can find, it’s over and the adventure ends here for us. It’s a shame for this team that deserved to go further. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime competition, a World Cup in France, we won’t get to play it again and it’s a shame to end like this. »

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