France battle past Samoa
France completed a clean sweep of their November Tests at the Stade de France on Saturday with a 22-14 win over Samoa.
Unlike their convincing successes over Australia and Argentina this month, victory didn't come easily for the French, who were trailing the Islanders going into the final quarter.
The result means France will end the month as Europe's highest-ranked side and will be one of the four top seeds at the 2015 World Cup Draw on December 3.
France led 10-7 at half time thanks to a charge-down try from Fred Michalak, whose score cancelled out David Lemi's opening try for Samoa.
Samoa moved in front early in the second period however when Joe Tekori scored as France struggled to contain the visitors' power game.
But Four Michalak penalties in the final 25 minutes were enough to see les Bleus home to a hard-fought win.
Samoa were first strike approaching the end of the first quarter. From turnover ball, prop Census Johnston chipped ahead (!) for wing Robert Lilomaiava to collect. Lemi was up in support to score the game's first try in spectacular fashion.
The French reply wasn't long in coming however as Michalak charged down his opposite number, Tusi Pisi, to bolt clear and score under the posts.
The home fly-half's conversion levelled the scores but France were having a hard time matching their visitors both in terms of physicality and accuracy on attack.
Scrum-half Morgan Parra was however able to give the French a half-time lead thanks to a 45 metre penalty shortly before the break.
Samoa started the second half breathing fire and a break from scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i had them camped on the French 22. Tekori took his chance on the fringe of a ruck, stretching out an arm to place the ball on the whitewash. It was a close call, but the TMO confirmed the try.
Pisi's conversion gave Samoa a 14-10 lead but Michalak soon pulled three back when the visitors infringed on the deck.
France turned to their scrum to earn the next penalty and a narrow lead and the hosts were lucky to see Pisi miss a second shot a goal.
Unable to unlock the Samoan defence with their backs, the French forwards put in the hard yards, earning another long range penalty for Michalak to secure victory in the dying minutes.
Man of the match: We usually pick someone from the winning side but a few Samoans really impressed. Kahn Fotuali'i was excellent and Census Johnston was awesome in both the scrums and the tight-loose. But we'll go for Taiasina Tuifua who made huge yards with ball in hand.
Moment of the match: Samoa's first try was a wake up call for France. Census Johnston's chip ahead to create the try will was straight out of front-row fantasy land!
Villain of the match: No nasty stuff to report.
Pens: Parra, Michalak 4
Tries: Lemi, Tekori
Cons: Pisi 2
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Wesley Fofana, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Vincent Clerc, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé (c), 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Yannick Forestier, 18 Vincent Debaty, 19 Jocelino Suta, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Francois Trinh-Duc, 23 Yoann Huget.
Samoa: 15 David Lemi (c), 14 Paul Perez, 13 George Pisi, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Robert Lilomaiava, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Taiasina Tuifua, 7 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ole Avei, 17 Villiamu Afatia, 18 James Johnston, 19 Faatiga Lemalu, 20 Tivaini Fomai, 21 Jeremy Su'a, 22 Ki Anufe, 23 Reupena Levasa.
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)