Autumn Nations Series: Antoine Dupont and Pieter-Steph du Toit sent off as France sneak past South Africa in thriller

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

The last two winners of the World Rugby Player of the Year award, Antoine Dupont and Pieter-Steph du Toit, were both red carded as France edged past South Africa 30-26 in a dramatic encounter.

Du Toit was deservedly sent off in the first half for connecting with the head of Jonathan Danty, who was forced off and later revealed to have sustained a fractured eye socket.

Les Bleus immediately benefited from the flanker’s absence, going 13-0 ahead thanks to Cyril Baille’s try and a brace of Thomas Ramos penalties, but the visitors impressively fought back.

Siya Kolisi touched down and Cheslin Kolbe added a conversion and a penalty to reduce the arrears before Ramos gave the hosts a 16-10 advantage at the break.

Then came the next big talking point in the contest. South Africa were on the attack when Faf de Klerk chipped to the wing, where Kolbe was lurking. Dupont had his eyes on the ball but took the wing out as the Springbok leapt into the air, resulting in the speedster landing on his head.

Referee Wayne Barnes, for the second time in the match, had little option but to red card the player.

With both teams down to 14, the Boks took control as Kurt-Lee Arendse touched down and De Klerk kicked a conversion and a penalty.

And after Ramos and Damian Willemse had traded three-pointers, the defending world champions were still ahead going into the latter stages, but Sipili Falatea’s try and a penalty from France’s full-back snatched the win in one of the great Test matches.

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In one of the most hotly-anticipated encounters during the Autumn Nations Series, it did not disappoint. The physicality was off the charts as both sides went head-to-head, but unfortunately for the Boks Du Toit did that quite literally.

France were already 3-0 in front through Ramos when the flanker went to clear out a ruck. However, he did not attempt to wrap and instead led with his head, resulting in him being sent off.

The victim of the collision, Danty, was duly withdrawn, but he was not the only player to be forced off in was what a brutal encounter.

Fabien Galthie’s men saw four players in total replaced through injury, with Thibaud Flament and both props, Baille and Uini Atonio, also substituted, although the latter returned for the second period.

It disrupted what had, at that point, been a fine French display, with Ramos adding a second three-pointer and Baille going over from close range for their first try, but credit must go to the Boks, who displayed tremendous spirit and quality to respond.

Jacques Nienaber’s charges had shown a bit more ambition in comparison to recent matches, with Arendse and Kolbe both very much involved, but it was their trusty maul which did most of the damage.

They dominated France’s much-altered forward pack and it led to a three-pointer for Kolbe before Kolisi touched down from another lineout drive minutes later.

Ramos’ third penalty opened up a six-point buffer at the interval before the kickers traded efforts off the tee at the start of the second half.

South Africa, despite being down to 14 men, were starting to get on top, however, and they were soon being helped by their opponents’ ill-discipline.

France’s star sees red

Almost immediately after star playmaker Dupont had been red carded, the Springboks took the lead for the first time as Arendse crossed the whitewash for a converted try.

De Klerk then extended their lead with a penalty before Ramos made it a one-point game with a quarter of the match remaining.

The Boks continued to be clinical, though, and their third kicker of the evening, Willemse, made it 26-22 with 15 minutes to go.

Nienaber’s men had done a superb job in stopping France from getting into their rhythm but in the latter stages Les Bleus increased the pressure.

South Africa cynically infringed, resulting in a yellow card for Deon Fourie, before Falatea crossed the whitewash to take France back ahead.

Ramos missed the conversion but added a three-pointer soon after to secure the victory in an absolute thriller.

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