Autumn Nations Series: Damian Penaud stunner rescues France as they edge past resilient Australia

Colin Newboult

France were indebted to the class of Damian Penaud as the wing touched down late on to give them a narrow 30-29 victory over a gallant Australia side.

Les Bleus struggled throughout as the visitors gave as good as they got. Thomas Ramos and Bernard Foley initially traded two penalties apiece before the Aussies put together the try of the weekend for Lalakai Foketi.

Ramos then reduced the arrears with two more successful efforts off the tee, but it looked like Dave Rennie’s men would go into the break with a one-point advantage. However, Julien Marchand touched down with the clock in the red and it could have been a sucker punch for the Wallabies.

They continued to battle, though, and went into the latter stages with a four-point buffer as Jock Campbell crossed the whitewash while Foley (twice) and Reece Hodge kicked penalties.

The Aussies were on the cusp of a famous win but Penaud’s brilliant score rescued the day for France.

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Australia went into the game off the back of narrow victory over Scotland, but they needed a vast improvement against the defending Six Nations champions.

Few saw how they could compete against the French behemoths, but Rennie’s charges were quite simply outstanding.

They began the game by putting star scrum-half Antoine Dupont under pressure and it resulted in the hosts infringing, leading to a Foley three-pointer.

Ramos almost immediately responded before the full-back added a second off the tee soon after.

France thought they had scored when Charles Ollivon burrowed his way over, but that was disallowed for a double movement and the Australians benefited from that reprieve.

Receiving the ball deep inside their own 22, Australia spotted space on the left where Tom Wright was lurking. The wing displayed outstanding pace to sprint clear of Penaud and showed equally good skills to pass the ball to Campbell.

Foketi was on the full-back’s shoulder and the Reds man duly found the centre to give the Wallabies a 13-6 advantage.

Deserved lead

It was a lead they absolutely deserved but Les Bleus would edge their way back into the contest thanks to the accurate kicking of Ramos.

They went into the latter stages of the first half 13-12 in arrears before Marchand touched down to take them 19-13 ahead going into the second period.

France had the momentum but Australia never went away and, after Ramos and Foley had traded penalties, Rennie’s men scored another well-worked try through Campbell.

The Wallabies’ fly-half brilliantly converted and then kicked a penalty to leave them 26-22 in front.

That four-point buffer remained going into the latter stages as Ramos and Hodge kicked a penalty apiece before Penaud’s piece of magic broke the Australians’ hearts.

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