The consistency of the refereeing at the World Cup was called into question again on Thursday as hosts France inched past Uruguay 27-12 to avoid a major shock in Lille.
Home lock Romain Taofifenua escaped with only 10 minutes in the sin bin for a head contact tackle when he could easily have been sent off.
The incident with Taofifenua followed similar head contacts involving England’s Tom Curry and South Africa’s Jesse Kriel with all three ending with different sanctions.
Les Bleus head coach Fabien Galthie rested his first-choice stars who impressed in the opening win over New Zealand.
But his second string struggled badly against a brave Uruguay side who didn’t get the rub of the green.
Romain Taofifenua looked lucky to escape a red card for his tackle on Santiago Arata
Minnows Uruguay were full of fire and confidence against a vastly-changed French side
France have now nonetheless won both their opening matches and look set to finish top of Pool A with clashes with Italy and Namibia to come.
But the lack of a home bonus point was a big surprise and the truth is it could have been even worse for France had referee Ben O’Keeffe and his television match official Ben Whitehouse decided to show Taofifenua red.
France made 12 changes from the team which beat the All Blacks and Melvyn Jaminet kicked an early penalty. But they were never in control and led only 13-5 at the break.
France were left shellshocked when Uruguay wing Nicolas Freitas collected a kick to score.
Nicolas Freitas was quick off the mark scoring the underdogs’ first try in just over five minutes
Felipe Etcheverry’s try in the first half was later ruled out but put the hosts under pressure
Antoine Hastoy restored normal proceedings with France’s first. But then lock Taofifenua hit tiny Uruguay scrum-half Santiago Arata in the head and was yellow carded with the decision sent to the bunker for further review.
Fortunately for France, Taofifenua’s card stayed at yellow and not red.
And with the hosts temporarily down to 14, they again had some more luck when Felipe Etcheverry dived over for Uruguay but saw his try ruled out for blocking.
Jaminet’s missed penalty and Gabin Villiere’s disallowed try added to French nerves at the start of the second half.
And another fine South American backs move saw full-back Baltazar Amaya score in the corner. The converted try saw France’s lead cut to a point.
Momentum appeared to be swinging in the direction of the visitors after Baltazar Amaya’s second-half try
But a flustered kick from Etcheverry provided a window of opportunity for Peato Mauvaka’s try
Peato Mauvaka’s try did extend the home advantage and Galthie was forced to bring on his big guns including the replacement hooker and lock Thibaud Flament to avoid what would have been an embarrassing defeat.
Uruguay’s never-say-die approach and no little rugby skill will have earned them plenty of admirers. They were fantastic for long periods and will surely feel hard done.
It could, and perhaps should, have been very different.
France wing Louis Bielle-Biarrey’s converted effort was cruel on the Uruguayans and Sekou Macalou had what would have been a crucial fourth try ruled out late on.
Fabien Galthie’s France will have much to reflect on but remain unbeaten in their home tournament
Uruguay may not have the result but they broke records with their best-ever result against Tier 1 opposition
FRANCE 27-12 URUGUAY: MATCH FACTS
Tries: Hastoy, Mauvaka, Bielle-Biarrey
Cons: Jaminet (3)
Pens: Jaminet (2)
Tries: Freitas, Amaya