Vakatawa scores 3 tries as France routs Samoa 52-8
TOULOUSE, France (AP) — Left winger Virimi Vakatawa crossed for a hat trick as France crushed Samoa 52-8 at the cost of flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc breaking his right arm on Saturday.
The powerful running of center Wesley Fofana and the clinical finishing of Vakatawa were too much for a Samoa side that was overwhelmed and spent most of the match on defence.
France scored seven tries, the others from winger Yoann Huget, flanker Charles Ollivon, replacement center Gael Fickou, and a late penalty try after good work from No. 8 Louis Picamoles.
It was France's fourth win against Samoa in as many matches and its largest, surpassing 43-5 in 2009 and nothing like the 22-14 contest four years ago.
It also followed a 27-0 success away to Argentina in late June, and shows the Tricolors are back in form following a mundane Six Nations.
Samoa's points came from flyhalf Patrick Fa'apale's penalty and center Rey Lee-Lo's try that caught France napping at the start of the second half.
Vakatawa broke into the France team in the Six Nations despite being a contracted sevens player. He does not play for a club in France's elite Top 14, and had not even played since representing France at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
But he showed little signs of rustiness with well-taken tries, two of them in the second half.
Trinh-Duc came off following a tackle from winger Paul Perez, who was playing at the ground where he plays his rugby for Toulouse, and was among Samoa's best players.
It was cruel on Trinh-Duc, who regained the No. 10 jersey after inconsistent seasons and being overlooked for last year's Rugby World Cup. His form for Toulon suggested he was getting back to the level that made him an automatic pick for France when it won the 2010 Six Nations Grand Slam and reached the 2011 World Cup final.
The day after his 30th birthday, he orchestrated France's attacks well with his quick hands.
But he wasn't the only one aching. Prop Jefferson Poirot hurt his shoulder and center Remi Lamerat also came off with a knock at the same time as Trinh-Duc.
Meanwhile, the burly Lamerat combined with Fofana in a steely yet creative midfield partnership that looks promising.
Vakatawa got France's first try in the 13th minute, but Fofana was at the heart of everything.
For the second try, he stopped a Samoa counterattack by ripping the ball from back-rower Alafoti Faosiliva, and fed Huget with a pass out of the back of his hand.
France's third was the best, and started with Fofana breaking a tackle deep inside his own half. Lamerat then charged through midfield, and passed to Vakatawa, who burst down the left before being stopped by Perez. After a succession of quick passes to the right, Ollivon crossed for his first international try.
France was rampant, and Fofana almost set up another try but hooker Guilhem Guirado fumbled.
It was 26-3 at the break and Samoa was reeling.
But Samoa started the second half strongly and Lee-Lo crossed for an unconverted try.
The flow was interrupted when France's wounded went off.
Fickou replaced Lamerat, and Jean-Marc Doussain came on for Trinh-Duc, who looked distraught.
The fourth try was not long in coming.
Flanker Kevin Gourdon broke two tackles and fed Fickou, with scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud adding the extras for 33-8.
Then, Fofana broke a tackle and, despite tumbling forward, still managed to offload a clean pass to fullback Scott Spedding, who set up Vakatawa.
After the penalty try, Vakatawa darted inside to round off a fine performance.
But it will get much harder for injury-hit France with Australia up next and then New Zealand.