PARIS (Reuters) - French hopes of posting a morale-boosting win in the build-up to next year's World Cup were dashed in a dramatic finish to Saturday's test against South Africa, much to the bitter disappointment of both their coach and captain.
"It's a cruel scenario," coach Jacques Brunel told reporters after France squandered a 14-point lead when the Springboks fought back to win the test with a dramatic last-gasp try for a 29-26 triumph at the Stade de France.
"We had started the game well. We have a good first half, during which we attacked put them under severe pressure," Brunel added.
"In the last minutes, we did not know how to protect our lead. We lack experience and perspective. We needed more control and patience. We hurried and the Springboks played well by isolating us and recovering a penalty."
France led 26-22 in the last minute and were on the attack, when South African flanker Francois Louw forced a turnover that set up a drive upfield, which gained ground thanks to four penalties and ended with a try scored from a driving maul.
It was a heartbreaking end for an out-of-form France side looking for a major scalp to put their World Cup preparations on the right track after winning just twice in eight tests this year.
"On the whole, we are satisfied with what we were able to do," captain Guilhem Guirado added.
"Unfortunately, we ruined it in the last minutes. The changing room is devastated. We had this match against South Africa in our hands and we let it slip. I hope this will serve as a lesson."
France next meet Argentina in Lille on Saturday, before completing their programme of November internationals back in Paris against Fiji on Nov. 24.
"We are going to be asked the same questions again when we take on Argentina. It will be a big fight again," Guirado added.
Brunel, however, said France had to look on the bright side.
"This (French) team has been attacking and enterprising. We matched the Springboks, one of the best teams in the world," he said.
(Reporting By Mark Gleeson; Editing by John O'Brien)