Argentina losing string hits 10 with defeat by France 23-21

French players celebrate after defeating Argentina 23-21 in the Rugby World Cup Pool C game at Tokyo Stadium between France and Argentina in Tokyo, Japan, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Argentina's Santiago Carreras chases a ball during the Rugby World Cup Pool C game at Tokyo Stadium between France and Argentina in Tokyo, Japan, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
France's Guilhem Guirado, right, is taclked by Argentina's Juan Figallo during the Rugby World Cup Pool C game at Tokyo Stadium between France and Argentina in Tokyo, Japan, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
French players embrace after defeating Argentina 23-21 in the Rugby World Cup Pool C game at Tokyo Stadium between France and Argentina in Tokyo, Japan, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

TOKYO — Argentina coach Mario Ledesma complained about a couple of referring decisions in the second half that might have changed the outcome.

But he also placed the blame where much of it belongs: on a miserable first 40 minutes for Los Pumas.

"I'm not forgetting what we did in the first half — what we didn't do in the first half," he said Saturday after Argentina lost to France 23-21 in Tokyo in the Rugby World Cup opener for both teams

Argentina has now lost 10 straight official matches, and its first half against France is why the string wasn't broken. The French led 20-3 at the break, slicing through missed tackles, combining on clever passes, and always a step ahead of the plodding Argentines.

"We were late to everything," Ledesma said. "Just running after them, and there was a lack of urgency and too many missed tackles. You can have the best defensive system in the world, but if your tackles aren't on point you're not going to defend well."

The second half was different, and the Argentines were in a position to win it.

"We were playing on the front foot. Physicality. Dominating," Ledesma said.

Argentina had a chance to win it with a last-minute, long-range penalty attempt, but a tactical switch proved the wrong move as Emiliano Boffelli replaced Benjamin Urdapilleta — who had landed the previous two penalties with assurance. Boffelli missed from 47 meters (51 yards).

Captain Pablo Matera stood by the decision to use Boffelli.

"He's a very good kicker," he said. "Even if he's two or three meters behind the half line he can make it. Yes, he missed the kick, but we trust him and we made the right decision."

Argentina now has remaining Pool C matches with England, Tonga and the United States. Next up is Tonga on Sept. 28, and another chance to break the losing string.

Argentina's last win in an official match was against Australia just over a year ago. Since then it has lost to many of the world best teams: twice each to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and now France. It also has single losses against Ireland and Scotland.

"I feel bitter because this is the kind of match we can win," Matera said. "If we play like this we give the opponent a big advantage. If we didn't allow the opponent to have such a large scoring difference in the first half, I think we would have had a different result."

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More AP Rugby World Cup: https://www.apnews.com/RugbyWorldCup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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