Gamble pays off as French seal it with a kick

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2008, 12:00am

Deadlocked at 14-all with Argentina at the end of regulation time, Simon Sarthou took a gamble and won. His penalty kick from 40 yards out gave France a heart-stopping 17-14 sudden-death victory in the Plate final that will be remembered for Gallic panache and bravery.

As Sarthou's drop kick flew between the posts 41 seconds into extra time to end the stalemate, the French camp exploded with joy. Coach Thierry Janeczek was an emotional wreck, relieved his charges had won the Plate in the most extraordinary fashion. France triumphed despite having Emeric Chretien sin-binned just six minutes into play.

'My heart almost stopped when I saw Simon take the kick. I was so relieved. We played with a big heart and winning the Plate final is a dream because this is the most famous Sevens tournament in the world,' said a jubilant Janeczek.

'It's great for my young players. They just started playing sevens together in Dubai [last December]. Their progress throughout these past few tournaments has been good,' he said.

France, losing finalists in last year's Bowl final to Russia, finally came good in Hong Kong after semi-final appearances in the Bowl competition in all previous appearances in the IRB series this year in Dubai, George, Wellington and San Diego.

The Frenchmen got off to a superb start when Vincent Roux scored under the posts, which was converted by Sarthou. But Argentina, losing Plate finalists last year, replied with a try from Gonzalo Camacho. The French regained the lead through Sarthou's try and conversion for a 14-7 lead, but Argentina hit back with an audacious try by Gabriel Ascarate under the posts. That try was converted by Andres Romagnoli to send the game into sudden death.

'I knew if I missed it, we probably wouldn't have another chance like this and I was confident I would make it. I took my chance,' said Sarthou. 'I was so happy when it went over. I've been doing this all the time in training and I always get my target. I just made another kick like I did in training,' he said.

Janeczek can savour the moment of winning the Plate - their first trophy success in the series.

'Every French player wants to play in Hong Kong. It's a wonderful tournament. They always whistle against the French but they can't take anything away from us this time. Winning the final put the icing on the cake,' said Janeczek.

Argentina legend Santiago Gomez Cora made a desperate attempt to score the winning try but ended up leaving the field injured. 'Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. I am disappointed but I can be proud of the boys. They fought a hard fight,' said Cora.