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By ARU Media Unit
The Qantas Wallabies have emerged victorious against a strong French side 6-0 in front of 27 189 fans in Melbourne to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the Castrol EDGE France Tour.
With Les Blues making 11 changes to the team that ran out in Brisbane last week it was a completely different French side in both look and feel as the fired up French looked to attack the Wallabies.
The gruelling win was the Qantas Wallabies sixth win in a row, a feat that had not been achieved by Australia since 2005.
For his powerful performance up front Prop James Slipper was named the Castrol EDGE Strongest Player.
Australia started the match well, controlling possession as the Wallabies attempted to power their way through the French line but Les Bleus were quick to counterattack, leaving fullback Israel Folau to rush back and end the French threat.
The revamped French team continued to attack the Wallabies early, with the Les Bleus stringing together multiple phases inside the Australian half.
Australian winger Nick Cummins’ predictions in the lead up to the Test of the match being “a real battle” during the first twenty minutes were correct as both sides fought hard to secure position at the breakdown and scrums, with neither side able to exert dominance over the other.
The first opportunity for points in the match came through the boot of French fullback Brice Dulin who attempted a kick from 50 metres out. Despite having the distance, Dulin was unable to get the ball through the posts leaving the scores locked at 0-0 just before the 20 minute mark.
It looked like the first try of the match came through Wallabies number eight, Ben McCalman, when he grounded a loose ball over the French line. However it was ruled that centre Matt Toomua had pushed a French player without the ball, meaning the battle to get points on the board continued past the 23 minute mark.
Some great runs from Nick Cummins in the middle of the first half kept Australia moving over the advantage line. Both teams engaged in tactical kicking as each side looked to gain the upper hand to gain territory.
With five minutes to go until half time it was the French who again had the opportunity to take the lead after a Wallabies infringement at the lineout. French scrumhalf Morgan Parra missed the posts, leaving the score at 0-0.
The first half was a bruising, close affair as neither team was able to get the advantage, leaving both teams scoreless at halftime.
Australian scrumhalf Nic White had the opportunity to give Australia the lead in the first minute of the second half, but his long range kick from just shy of halfway went slightly to the right of the posts.
Moments later from the other side of the field, Nick White again had another opportunity after a subsequent French penalty, only for his attempt to ricochet off the posts into the arms of a flying Adam Ashley-Cooper. Australia attacked the line, but a wayward pass meant that the Wallabies missed the rare opportunity inside the French 22.
The Wallabies earnt some golden opportunities inside the French 22, but the French defence, much improved from the first Test in Brisbane, made it difficult for the Wallabies.
Australian captain Michael Hooper, in his first test as run on captain for his country, opted to take the option of a penalty in the 53rd minute, which Bernard Foley converted, giving Australia the lead for the first time in the match.
In the 59th minute, James Horwill in his 50th Test for his country, was replaced by local hero Luke Jones in his Test debut.
In the 63rd minute of the match, referee Wayne Barnes warned French captain Thierry Dusautoir for slowing down the Wallabies ball at the breakdown with consistent penalties. Australian scrumhalf Nic White converted the penalty, taking Australia’s lead to 6-0.
Les Bleus coach Philippe Saint-Andre brought off his captain in the 66th minute, highlighting the intensity of the battle for the forwards for both teams.
The French infringements at the breakdown continued and in the 69th minute, referee Wayne Barnes sent replacement Bernard Le Roux to the sin bin.
The battle continued between the two sides all the way the 80th minute as Australia held out France for multiple phases as the Wallabies attempted to defend their precious lead.
Some mighty defence from the men in gold in the final minutes prevented a French victory, with the final score remaining at 6-0 in favour of the Qantas Wallabies.
Australia will now head to Sydney where they will look to whitewash the French 3-0 in the Castrol EDGE France Tour when they play at Allianz stadium and look to make it seven Test wins in a row.