Wallabies hang on against France in Paris

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

A superb performance from skipper David Pocock has helped the Wallabies hang on in Paris and keep their perfect Spring Tour record intact with a 25-23 win over France.

It wasn’t their most emphatic but a win was enough for a Wallabies team keen to prove this was no "l’equipe bis" (B-team) against France, not that their openside would ever have been considered among the B team candidates, producing one of the best individual performances of his career, playing in tandem with wrecking ball Sean McMahon, who looked like a man who has been deprived of the sport he loves for six weeks.

Early scrum issues put the Wallabies on the back foot, but an immense performance from their backrow and cool heads like Bernard Foley, who finished with 15 points, and Will Genia helped them hang on for a great victory.

Sefa Naivalu went agonisingly close just two minutes in after Australia dominated the early possession share but a Tolu Latu ruck infringement handed France the first points of the match, with star scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud booting the penalty goal in the sixth minute.

As the penalty count stacked up against the Wallabies, the French tested their defensive mettle and ultimately conceded a try through Fijian winger Virimi Vakatawa, putting the Wallabies in a familiar position.

The Wallabies had their first shot at points in the 21st minute, with Bernard Foley slotting a penalty to narrow the margin to five points, the first of a game-high tally for the flyhalf, who replaced injured Quade Cooper in the starting lineup on the day of the match.

Just two minutes later Australia levelled things up with a penalty try awarded by referee Glen Jackson after a driving maul with hooker Tolu Latu bringing up the rear collapsed just before the tryline. Flanker Charles Ollivon was sin binned for the offence.

Both sides’ handling was frenetic and sometimes overly optimistic as the half ticked on, with the Wallabies clawing back some ascendancy but unable to make the most of their chances.

Kyle Godwin impressed in his Test debut, looking settled at inside centre, as well as some cameos at first receiver and he has certainly given the coaches some food for thought heading into next week's midweek match against the French Barbarians and the Ireland Test in Dublin.

A bone-crunching Naivalu hit ended the attacking run of Vakatawa and halted France’s momentum again and another Wallabies shot put the visitors up by five points, with Foley slotting the goal just on the edge of his kicking range.

Penalties at scrum time hurt Australia, with French tighthead Uini Atonio inflicting much of the damage, with a crucial infringement just shy of the break that kept France just two points behind at 13-11.

The Wallabies came back from the break with intent and promptly added a try through Foley, though the French replied 10 minutes later, through their own playmaker Jean-Marc Doussain.

A miracle try from Tevita Kuridrani, with the outside centre just putting the ball down mere moments before he landed into touch, stretched the Wallabies lead to nine but the French did not roll over.

Inside centre Wesley Fofana made the equation just two points at 25-23 with 13 minutes left on the clock, after another period of sustained pressure in the Wallabies’ defensive end.

Holding on to that two-point advantage, the Wallabies needed to draw on everything they had, bringing on their experienced front rowers late in a bid to halt the French edge.

France sent an attacking barrage the Wallabies way after trying to eke out a scrum penalty in the final minutes and an 83rd-minute Camille Lopez field goal attempt fell just wide, saving the Wallabies from a last-gasp defeat.

The Wallabies head to Dublin on Sunday to resume their Grand Slam attempt against Ireland.


France 23

Tries: Virimi Vakatawa, Jean-Marc Doussain, Wesley Fofana

Cons: Maxime Machendaud

Pens: Maxime Machenaud 2

Australia 25

Tries: Penalty try, Tevita Kuridrani, Bernard Foley

Cons: Bernard Foley  2

Pens: Bernard Foley 2