Jake White never wavered in his belief that the Pumas would upset France. And he has always said this is a World Cup to be decided on defence.
White would have given himself a pat on the back because this was a heroic Pumas defensive effort. They made twice as many tackles as the hosts, scrambled magnificently on defence for 83 minutes and deserved a fifth win against France in their last six starts. The only defeat came in Paris two years ago when France won by a point.
Had France won on Friday night it would have been a crippling blow to the psyche of the Pumas, who in the past have come so close in big tournaments, only to crumble emotionally.
In the biggest game of their lives they showed the composure previous Pumas teams have lacked, while France couldn’t conjure up enough momentum to threaten the Pumas tryline.
The atmosphere prior to kick-off was nothing short of sensational and the expectation on the French team was enormous. It showed as the French nervousness proved as menacing as the Pumas defence. The result is a popular one for the neutral observer, but for the potency of the tournament it could prove a killer blow.
France now has to beat Ireland to advance to the quarter-finals and if they come second they will play the All Blacks in Cardiff in a quarter-final.
They could still triumph in the Group if Ireland beats the Pumas and France beats Ireland. It would then come down to points differential. Pity the Namibians and Georgia.
Technically the French still have a lifeline, but the pressure will only intensify in the next two weeks.
The Pumas were in charge of the match at half-time, but the pivotal period came between the 45th and 47th minutes as France’s pack produced a monstrous mauling effort. For two minutes they mauled the Pumas 30 metres and onto their own tryline. But somehow the Pumas held out the French and won the penalty. That was 120 seconds the great grand children will be told and retold for generations to come. Defensive coaching DVD’s need only show that two minute period. What can’t be coached is attitude and Argentina had plenty of it.
They had the urgency and while the French had most of the ball in the second half and all the field position, the Pumas had the stomach for this fight.
The Pumas made 110 tackles to the French 60 – and that was the most telling statistic of this contest.