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The Wallabies showed their mettle to overcome a spirited French outfit 25-23 in a nailbiting match at Stade de France this morning. David Pocock, leading the Wallabies as captain for the first time since 2012, was instrumental in the victory forcing crucial turnovers and halting the French attack with his brick-wall defence.
The Wallabies won 12 turnovers compared to France's six, outshining the French in their commitment for the ball. The French however won the offloads tally, racking up 26, as their adventurous backline showed lightning pace and flair to slice through the Wallabies defence on several occasions.
The win marks the Wallabies third successive victory on the Spring Tour, building a strong foundation for the coming Grand Slam matches against Ireland and England in the weeks ahead. The match also marked the debut of Western Australian Kyle Godwin who started the match in the number 12 jersey, after first being named in the Wallabies squad in 2014. In doing so, he became the 903rd Wallaby and the thirteenth debutant of 2016.
In a packed Stade de France, a breakdown penalty against the Wallabies opened the door for the Les Bleus to put the first points on the board with Maxime Machenaud slotting a penalty in the sixth minute.
With the early lead, the momentum swung in France’s favour as they continued to pile pressure on Australia’s defence. Their reward came in the 16th minute when Fijian-born flyer Virimi Vakitawa charged over the line for the first try after an impressive phase of attack where multiple French offloads kept the Wallabies defence scrambling.
The Wallabies responded quickly by forcing a penalty, allowing Bernard Foley to put three points on the board for the Australians. Minutes later, with pressure mounting on the French following a solid Australian lineout and drive from Tolu Latu, Australia’s maul loomed dangerously close to the try line with all signs indicating an imminent five points. When the maul was collapsed, New Zealand referee Glen Jackson awarded a penalty try to Australia and sent Charles Ollivan off with a yellow card for his involvement.
Another three points from Bernard Foley added to Australia’s tally in the 37th minute after Remi Lamerat was penalised for holding on, but a post-siren penalty to France off the back of a collapsed scrum in front of the posts saw the gap reduced to two points, leaving the Wallabies to head to the change rooms with a tenuous 13-11 lead.
Australia charged back onto the field after the break, with some hard running from Foley, Pocock, Simmons and Genia putting early pressure on Les Bleus. Some committed phasework with the forwards drawing in the defence saw a short pass from Will Genia find Bernard Foley which allowed him to dart over the line in the 43rd minute to firmly stamp the Wallabies' intentions for the second half.
As France tried to shift the momentum of the game, their relief came from a scintillating backline try, with Spedding searing down the left touchline before Fofana and Vakatawa took inside balls and then popped it to Jean-Marc Doussain who tumbled over the line.
Australia responded swiftly with Sean McMahon and Will Genia aggressively running deep into the French half, allowing the ball to be spread wide to Tevita Kuridrani on the wing who, with minimal space, showed incredible skill to ground the ball in the corner while his outstretched body remained in the air, millimetres away from touch.
However France struck again in the 65th minute, with Wesley Fofana finding easy space to pin down a five-pointer under the posts, after some hard-running groundwork from Spedding and Vakatawa.
With the score locked at 25-23, Les Bleus kept the French fans in Stade de France roaring as they pushed towards the line, only to be met with a solid wall of gold defenders led by captain David Pocock. With the siren already rung, the French rallied to set themselves up for a drop-goal in the 80th minute only for it to drift outwards to the left.
The final score was 25-23, marking the Wallabies third consecutive Spring Tour win. The Qantas Wallabies will continue their Spring Tour campaign next Sunday morning (4am AEDT) against Ireland in Dublin.
How it happened:
Australia 25 (Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani tries; penalty try; Bernard Foley 2 cons; 2 pens) defeated France 23 (Virimi Vakatawa, Wesley Fontana, Jean-Marc Doussain tries; Maxime Machenaud 1 con; 2 pens)