Clerc scores hat-trick as France see off Canada
France ran into difficult conditions and a Canada team that refused to give in before claiming a 46-19 win at the Rugby World Cup in Napier.
With 11 changes made from the team which played the opening game against Japan, the French battled for the ascendancy in this pool A match and had it not been for Canadian indiscipline which punished them on the scoreboard, the scoreline might have been closer.
It took 64 minutes for France to play with the control expected of the fifth-ranked side in the world and it came when fullback Damien Traille was fed into space on the right flank.
He beat the defence and then ran back on the angle to wrong foot the remaining tacklers to score.
The final quarter, and reserves of stamina which ran out, also undid the Canadians as the French scored three tries in the last 16 minutes, with wing Vincent Clerc crossing twice to complete a hat-trick and securing a bonus point for France in the last act of the game.
Clerc is now France's top World Cup try scorer, with nine.
No.8 Louis Picamoles mastered the tricky conditions, proving a handy runner with the ball in hand while also sweeping in the rearguard to cover Canadian downfield kicks.
Scrum-half Morgan Parra produced a complete performance in the wet while also kicking 23 points.
After Canada's fullback James Pritchard had opened the scoring with a penalty goal, France hit back immediately after a powerful run by Picamoles.
Fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc launched a high kick and confusion among the rearguard saw the ball rebound off Pritchard and fall into the arms of Clerc who dropped over the line for the try.
Canada stormed through from the restart but when fly-half Ander Monro followed Trinh-Duc's example the ball was allowed to bounce by the French.
It rebounded off an upright and in the scramble under the cross bar it was centre Ryan Smith who touched down.
Parra levelled the scores in the 16th minute with a handy penalty goal.
Canada were guilty of infringements that Parra was able to capitalise on with three penalty goals in the last five minutes to give France a 19-10 lead at the break.
Monro revealed a handy knack for the dropped goal, landing his first in the 43rd minute and then a second five minutes later as the ball emerged scrappily from a maul before he stabbed a sharp effort through the posts.
But for all his good work the Canadians undid any advantage by conceding penalties which Parra was happy enough to add to his personal score card.
Canada showed commendable technique and application in coping with the French rolling maul and pick-and-goes to frustrated prospective try scoring opportunities. They revealed a happy knack for completing turnovers from French mauls.
But if unable to score tries, Trinh-Duc was happy to emulate Monro and landed a dropped goal in the 56th minute to take the lead to 25-16.
And, as time wound down, a cleverly worked set piece move involving replacement scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili doubling round his outside to create space on the flank give wing Clerc his second try and then a last-minute breakout result in Clerk crossing for his third.
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