Wallabies power past ragged France
June 25, 2009
Matt Giteau scored all of Australia's points in Sydney
© Getty Images
Robbie Deans' Australia ensured that France ended their season on a low after securing a comfortable 22-6 win over Les Bleus in Sydney. Following on from their drawn series against the All Blacks hopes were high for a rare French victory on Australian soil, but a lack of disicipline and accuracy at the breakdown blunted their best efforts and handed myriad opportunities to Wallaby fly-half Matt Giteau.
With the continuing controversy over centre Mathieu Bastareaud's fabricated assault story while in New Zealand hanging over them, the French failed to create any opportunities and were kicked out of the game by Giteau, who scored all of Australia's points including their first-half try.
Deans recalled his strongest XV for the game, with skipper Stirling Mortlock, lock Nathan Sharpe, wing Drew Mitchell and the front-row of Al Baxter, Stephen Moore and Benn Robinson all returning. Openside George Smith, outstanding all game, won his 99th cap.
France boss Marc Lievremont also made several changes, notably at halfback where a new combination of Dimitri Yachvili and Lionel Beauxis started. Centre Damien Traille also shifted to fullback.
France started powerfully, flooding the breakdown and testing out the Wallaby back-three with a series of searching kicks. They should have had the lead following a charge-down off Giteau but for an inexplicable decision by referee Dave Pearson, penalising Fulgence Ouedraogo when the openside had no hope of extricating himself from the ruck.
The Wallabies showed their attacking smarts soon after with Drew Mitchell showing good pace and intelligence, first seeing a try ruled out for a knock on before his grubber set up a good opportunity - one that was thwarted by more aggressive breakdown work.
Ouedraogo felt the force of a colossal hit by Richard Brown as the Wallabies pulled together some forward momentum before Beauxis showed some negativity by taking a drop-goal attempt in France's next attacking opportunity. Some fine combinations led to the home side's first try, with an excellent, arching pass from Giteau finding Mortlock.
The skipper shovelled the ball on to Lachie Turner, who in turn sent the ball on to Barnes. Giteau, running a support line around after setting the move in motion, popped up on the wing to take the final pass and cross the try-line unopposed.
Beauxis landed France's first points of the night soon after but Giteau soon restored the Wallabies' seven point cushion following another series of poor calls by the referee. With France denied a clear penalty following superb work at the breakdown from Ouedraogo the Wallabies won a shot at goal of their own when France flew up offside in defence.
The rest of the half was scrappy, with Australia attempting to play an open game but being constantly challenged by the physicality of the French in the tackle. Another worrying facet of the game for Deans was the lack of accuracy by Giteau and Barnes with their kicking game, both players guilty of sending kicks out on the full.
Giteau extended the Wallabies' lead soon after the restart, banging over a long-range kick after Maxime Mermoz has intercepted a pass and raced away to the try-line, only to be called back for offside. The fly-half was on target again moments later as poor support play left Mermoz isolated on his 22.
The French continued to get on the wrong side of the referee with some foolish play at the breakdown by hooker Szarzewski, his hands in the ruck allowing Giteau another three points. Les Bleus suffered a further setback when Beauxis was forced from the field by injury, Traille stepping in at fly-half.
Dimitri Yachvili drew a penalty back for France but their work on the floor continued to kill any chance they had of closing the deficit, replacement prop Nicolas Mas conceding the latest in a rash of foolish penalties only moments after taking to the field.
France failed to trouble the Wallabies with ball in hand, their game suffering due to a lack of cohesion in defence. The pressure that they were able to develop against the All Blacks due to their ferocious defence never materialised in Sydney, with home side easing down through the gears as full-time approached.
Their next Test is the opening Bledisloe Cup encounter against New Zealand on July 18, and while their kicking game needs work the men in gold look primed for a healthy run during this season's Tri-Nations.
Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies), Lachie Turner (NSW Waratahs), Stirling Mortlock (Brumbies, captain), Berrick Barnes (Queensland Reds), Drew Mitchell (Western Force), Matt Giteau (Western Force), Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs), Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Al Baxter (NSW Waratahs), James Horwill (Queensland Reds), Nathan Sharpe (Western Force), Dean Mumm (NSW Waratahs), George Smith (Brumbies), Richard Brown (Western Force)
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau (NSW Waratahs), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Phil Waugh (NSW Waratahs), David Pocock (Western Force), Josh Valentine (Western Force), Ryan Cross (Western Force), James O'Connor (Western Force)
France: Damien Traille; Maxime Medard, Florian Fritz, Maxime Mermoz, Cedric Heymans, Lionel Beauxis, Dimitri Yachvili; Fabien Barcella, Dimitri Szarzewski, Sylvain Marconnet, Pascal Pape, Romain Millo-Chluski, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Fulgence Ouedraogo, Julien Puricelli
Replacements: Guilhelm Guirado, Nicolas Mas, Remy Martin, Damien Chouly, Julien Dupuy, Vincent Clerc, Julien Arias
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup