Rugby World Cup 1999
Mola hat-trick spares French blushes
October 8, 1999
France full-back Ugo Mola scores one of his hat-trick of tires
© Getty Images
French full-back Ugo Mola celebrated a personal triumph of three tries in Bordeaux but it simply flattered an unimpressive French side. The French, booed off at half-time after a series of elementary errors that had left them just 23-13 ahead, outscored the Nambibian farmers by six tries to one but rarely showed the fluency required of a group winner let alone potential World Champions.
Under-fire captain Raphael Ibanez was replaced with 15 minutes to go. France had extended their lead early in the second-half as recalled fly-half Christophe Lamaison fed Mola on the blindside and the 26-year-old, who had only retained his place because Thomas Castaignede was ruled out of the tournament on Thursday, touched down for his sixth international try in the corner.
Mola, who had been dropped from fly-half following the 54-7 thrashing by the All Blacks earlier this year, added a second seven minutes later after constant French pressure told on the the weary Namibians, who had repelled the French for five minutes on their own line.
A pumped-up Mola, who had said earlier in the week that he thought he had blown his chance of keeping his place in the team, claimed his hat-trick minutes later, cutting in to take a pass from winger Philippe Bernat-Salles and forced his way over despite the despairing tackle of Francois van Rensburg.
Bernat-Salles, who was France's outstanding player on a forgetable night for the team, fed Ntamack for the next try, his 24th in 37 tests, after Lamaison had delivered a clever defence-splitting pass to the winger.
It had been Bernat-Salles who had given France some breathing space at the end of the first-half as he profited from a Namibian error to score a try and give a dreadful France a 23-13 half-time lead over the African minnows.
Earlier a try by winger Arthur Samuelson had rocked the French. Bernat-Salles profited from a careless pass by Namibian fly-half Andre Zaayman to kick ahead and with no Namibian cover touch down.
It was a cruel blow to the Namibians who had looked equal to the efforts of the French, particularly after the 24-year-old Samuelson burst onto a van Rensburg pass to get between the French centres and score under the posts in the 20th minute.
French scrum-half Pierre Mignoni, who had admitted that he had not played well in the first match against Canada, squeezed over the line aided by his pack to open the scoring for France - Richard Dourthe converted.
Namibia's classy full-back turned winger, Leandre van Dyk, reduced the deficit four minutes later when he ignored the boos of the French spectators to convert a penalty. However, despite Dourthe converting a penalty to restore the seven point gap, it was the Africans who created the better opportunities as van Dyk intercepted a pass in his own half and after kicking ahead van Rensburg was only beaten to the line by a despairing French boot.
The French suffered another blow when No.8 Thomas Lievremont went off injured after he had been brought to ground following a rampaging run in the 26th minute - former captain Abdelatif Benazzi replaced him.