Winger Virimi Vakatawa scored a hat-trick as France crushed Samoa 52-8 in Toulouse on Saturday.
Apart from a solid display in the first 10 minutes, which resulted in flyhalf Patrick Fa’apale opening the scoring with a penalty, Samoa offered very little resistance to France’s slick attacking game.
The blockbusting Vakatawa will, deservedly, be lauded for his hat-trick, but Wesley Fofana deserve recognition for his influence on the game. The inside centre was at the heart of Les Bleus’ attack and had a hand in every one of their five tries.
After Fa’apale knocked over a penalty to put Samoa in the lead, the momentum swung the way of France and it didn’t change again. The three first-half tries – by Vakatawa, the enigmatic Yoann Huget and Baptiste Serin – coupled with a conversion and three penalties from Maxime Machenaud saw France take a commanding 26-3 lead.
The second half turned out to be even more one-sided as Les Bleus doubled their advantage to breach the 50-point barrier.
Samoa, who looked out of sorts in the first half, played with a new sense of purpose after the restart and it paid off when centre Rey Lee-Lo went over for their first try. But Manu Samoa’s new-found vigour faded just as France’s performance started to lift again.
The hosts, to the delight of a packed stadium, crossed for four more tries including a second-half brace from Vakatawa, to get their three-Test end-of-year spell off to a winning start.
France – Tries: Virimi Vakatawa (3), Yoann Huget, Baptiste Serin, Gaël Fickou, penalty try. Conversions: Maxime Machenaud (2), Serin (2). Penalties: Machenaud (3).
Samoa – Try: Rey Lee-Lo. Penalty: Patrick Fa’apale.
France – 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Rémi Lamerat, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Kévin Gourdon, 6 Louis Picamoles, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Julien Le Devedec, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Guilhelm Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Subs: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Sébastian Vahaamahina, 19 Charles Ollivon, 20 Baptiste Serin, 21 Jean-Marc Doussain, 22 Gaël Fickou, 23 Rabah Slimani.
Samoa – 15 Paul Williams, 14 Paul Perez, 13 George Pisi, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 David Lemi (c), 10 Patrick Faapale, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Genesis Mamea-Lemalu, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Christopher Vui, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Manu Leaiataua, 1 Zac Taulafo.
Subs: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Logovi'i Mulipola, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Jeff Lepa, 20 Gregory Foe, 21 Pele Cowley, 22 D'Angelo Leuila, 23 Ken Pisi.
Photo: Manuel Blondeau/Getty Images/Icon Sport