Australia have broken an eight-year hoodoo thanks to a shocking display from France No.10 David Skrela.
Greg Growden writes for RugbyHeaven Aus that the Wallabies made hard work of their Test win over France at Stade de France this morning eventually saved by a dreadful kicking performance from opposing five-eighth David Skrela. It was Australia’s first triumph over Les Bleus on enemy territory in eight years and also gave the Wallabies their first back-to-back spring tour wins over England and France in a decade.
The French No.10 could have easily won the game for the home nation but missed five shots at goal – including two in the tense final 10 minutes that would have put France in front – as well as being off target with a simple drop goal attempt from in front in the first half. He capped off a dreadful game by receiving a yellow card from South African referee Craig Joubert in the 75th minute for a high tackle on Wallaby winger Digby Ioane.
The Queensland winger was called up to the starting XV just three hours before kick-off after Ryan Cross withdrew with a virus leading to a number of positional changes. Drew Mitchell was switched from the wing to fullback with incumbent No.15, Adam-Ashley Cooper, partnering Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock in the centre.
Despite the scrappy play it was nonetheless a courageous performance by the Wallabies, who were cruising early but made life hard for themselves just before halftime.
Robbie Deans’s team were leading 10-0 in the 38th minute before halfback Luke Burgess threw an abominable pass to his five-eighth Matt Giteau, which went almost a metre over his head and evnetually over the dead ball line.
From the ensuing re-start 10 metres from the Wallaby line, Joubert awarded a penalty try to the home side after Australia deliberately collapsed the scrum.
The Australian pack disintegrated after engagement and the ruling was a correct one. The resulting conversion from Skrela put France back in the game trailing Australia just 10-7 at the break.
In the second half there were numerous chances for France to go ahead but Skrela kept missing shots at goal. In between, Australia were able to stay ahead through tries by their hooker Stephen Moore, which followed excellent phase play while quick hands, including an excellent flick pass by Giteau, enabled winger Peter Hynes to score in the 57th minute.
The standout players for the Wallabies were Giteau, who had another accomplished midfield game plus Ioane who despite only a few hours of warning stood up to the pressure as did outside-centre Ashley-Cooper.
The Wallabies forward play fluctuated yet again but their hooker Moore stood out and showed why he is becoming one of international rugby’s best rakes.
Neither side could dominate in the early stages though Skrela should have put the hosts ahead with a penalty in the second minute and was to miss with an even easier drop goal attempt in the eighth minute.
France’s cult hero Sebastien Chabal saved his side when he intercepted Burgess’s pass as the Aussie was being tackled by Benoit Baby deep inside the hosts 22, and duly booted it to safety.
The mediocrity even got to Mortlock as the veteran centre – the only survivor from the last Wallaby team to beat France at home – failed to land a penalty from long range just after the 20 minute mark.
The crowd were mightily relieved when the deadlock was finally broken in the 29th minute as Matt Giteau landed a penalty when France flanker Thierry Dusautoir was penalised.
This appeared to calm Australia and within two minutes they had scored a try as Moore burrowed over despite Dusautoir’s best efforts to stop him after a fine break by the Aussie backs. Giteau converted to make it 10-0.
France had the chance to reduce the deficit in the 34th minute but again Skrela failed to find the mark with a penalty, and the Toulouse star showed his frustration by waving his arms.
Two minutes later and the boos rang out as he missed with another attempt before Burgess’s error gifted France seven points.
France, who lost captain Lionel Nallet shortly after the restart, were level at 10-10 when Skrela at last managed to land a penalty in the 49th minute after an Australian was penalised for coming in at the side.
Their renewed confidence was further in evidence as Medard succeeded with an audacious long range drop goal in the 52nd minute to give them a 13-10 advantage.
However, the Aussies replied in impressive fashion with a smart backline move seeing Giteau pass to Mortlock who offloaded to Hynes who then touched down in the corner, for his third try for his country, to make it 15-13 but Giteau failed to convert.
Skrela’s woes with the boot continued as he had a chance to restore the hosts’ lead 10 minutes from time but once again it went wide of the posts.
Two minutes later he had another chance and yet again failed with the boot.
Giteau made no mistake with five minutes remaining to give the Wallabies a crucial five point lead.
AUSTRALIA 18 (Peter Hynes, Stephen Moore tries Matt Giteau con 2 pens)
FRANCE 13 (1 penalty try) (David Skrela con pen Maxime Medard drop goal)Tweet