France hand Australia fifth straight loss in emphatic fashion ahead of World Cup

David Skippers
Damian Penaud France v Australia RWC warm-up 2023 - Alamy.jpg

France's Damian Penaud takes on the Wallabies defence in Paris.

France continued with their superb form ahead of the upcoming Rugby World Cup when they cruised to an emphatic 41-17 victory over Australia in Paris on Sunday.

In a fast-paced and exciting encounter in which both sides gave the ball plenty of air, Les Bleus were full value for their win as they held the upper-hand for long periods and eventually outscored their opponents by four tries to three.

Damian Penaud led the way with a brace of tries while Gabin Villiere and Jonathan Danty also crossed the whitewash. The home side’s other points came via three conversions and four penalties from Thomas Ramos, while Melvyn Jaminet also succeeded with a conversion and a three-pointer off the kicking tee.

For the Wallabies, who have now lost all five of their Tests this year, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Fraser McReight and Suliasi Vunivalu dotted down and Carter Gordon added a conversion.

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The visitors had a chance to open the scoring as early as the third minute, when Antoine Dupont was blown up for offside play on defence, but Gordon’s shot at goal from the resulting penalty was wide of the mark.

That early miss proved costly as it did not take long for the hosts to respond when Danty crossed for the opening try in the eighth minute. This, after he ran onto a flat pass from Dupont inside Australia’s 22 before powering through a tackle from Gordon on his way over the try-line.

Despite that score, the Wallabies did not panic and shortly afterwards they struck back when Andrew Kellaway joined the line at pace before finding Nawaqanitawase with a long pass out wide, and the wing dotted down in the left-hand corner.

Gordon was off target with the conversion attempt, but both sides stayed true to their attacking roots, and in the 16th minute Villiere came close to increasing their lead when he found himself in space out wide before he was bundled into touch by a desperate cover tackle from Nawaqanitawase close to the corner flag.

The rest of the half saw France gradually gaining the upper-hand as Australia conceded a plethora of penalties, and when it was within goal-kicking range, Ramos made them pay.

The full-back succeeded with two penalties in quick succession, which gave his side a 13-5 lead by the half hour-mark but Australia had a chance to reduce the deficit in the 33rd minute – when Les Bleus were penalised for illegal scrumaging – but Gordon was off target again.

That proved a costly miss as two minutes later, Tate McDermott was penalised for obstruction, and Ramos made the Wallabies pay again as he made no mistake from the kicking tee, which meant France were holding a deserved 16-5 lead as the teams changed sides at half-time.

The second half started in a similar fashion, with Ramos lining up a shot at goal in the 43rd minute – after Lalakai Foketi was penalised for a high tackle on Gael Fickou – but surprisingly, his effort struck an upright.

Australia spent most of the next 10 minutes camped inside France’s half, but they were met with a solid defensive effort from their hosts, and no points were scored during that period.

Their inability to score points came back to haunt the Wallabies in the 53rd minute when Vunivalu was yellow-carded for a cynical defensive foul deep inside his half.

It did not take long for Les Bleus to make their numerical advantage count as in the 57th minute, Penaud gathered a perfectly weighted cross-field kick from Dupont before cantering in for his first five-pointer.

To their credit, the Wallabies did not surrender, and on the hour-mark, McReight crossed the whitewash when he ran onto a pass from McDermott after France failed to deal with a teasing box kick from the Wallabies scrum-half inside their 22.

It did not take long for Les Bleus to respond, though as soon after, Matthieu Jalibert found Villiere with a cross-field kick, and he did well to score his try despite the attentions of two defenders.

France’s dominance continued, and in the 76th minute, they were rewarded again when Penaud chipped ahead before regathering to score his second try. Shortly afterwards, Vunivalu was rewarded when he scored his try, after gathering a high ball, but France finished stronger and sealed their win in the game’s dying moments when Jaminet slotted his penalty from just inside his half.

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