Rugby Union: Lynagh at large with great display for Wallabies: France shown follies of their ways in second Test

Click to follow
France. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Australia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24

HE IS the heaviest scorer in international rugby history but Michael Lynagh's 783 points for Australia are yesterday's statistics and, extraordinary to relate, his Wallabies are the better for it with the kicking taken from him.

They shattered the French, squaring the two-Test series after losing the first in Bordeaux 16-13, by the weird but wonderful expedient of passing the responsibility to Marty Roebuck, and not only did the full- back kick everything until it no longer mattered, Lynagh was liberated to run the match - and run.

It was, moreover, a collective as well as individual liberation. Lynagh is one of the most pleasant people in rugby but his very niceness has sometimes created the impression that he is diffident on the field as well as off it. 'I said to him before last year's tour to Ireland and Wales that it would be a crime if he retired and no one knew what a good running player he is,' Bob Dwyer, the Wallabies coach, said.

Then, injury brought his running to a halt. Now, nothing could stop him. At the Parc on Saturday 'Noddy' Lynagh asserted himself with one of the great outside-half displays, not simply booting Australia down the field as he always has done but consistently slicing holes in the French defence with an intuitive eye both for the gap and what was possible. 'Noddy,' Dwyer gushed, 'had a fantastic game.'

So did Roebuck, who only a week earlier had been off colour, off form and dropped. As if he were Lynagh himself, he kicked all four of his penalty chances and converted his own try for 19 points. He then announced his retirement, but will the newly fancy-free Lynagh ever resume his former duties? 'It's something I've got to look at,' he said.

'I just thought that was the best decision for the team this week. Whether it will be the best next week I don't know. If I don't have the goal- kicking I can play at a higher level of arousal, concentrate on my own game. It releases me to get more aggressive and run with the ball.' At 30 and after 64 caps and precisely 100 appearances for the Wallabies, he has come to this realisation rather late in his rugby life.

The idea of Lynagh's getting aggressive is faintly ridiculous and in any case what released him to run with the ball was the massive effort of his forwards and the fanatical defence of the entire Wallaby team. In fact the Australian ball-winning was less prolific than it had been in Bordeaux but it made no difference; the Wallabies' choice of tactics, not to mention their execution, was vastly superior to France's.

Why, even the eminent Philippe Sella, breaking Serge Blanco's rugby world record with his 94th cap, was reduced to anonymity once he had led the French team on to 'the magic rectangle' (his description) and then been mobbed by them before they lined up for the anthems.

'The fact that we did better in the line-out counted for nothing,' Olivier Roumat, the French captain, said. 'It is clear that there is still a gap between northern and southern-hemisphere rugby.' Certainly in the matters of chance-taking and mistake-making the gap was enormous.

So when Pierre Berbizier, the French coach, claimed that the score did not truly reflect the game, he was only partly right. France had their share of attacking positions but, as is their habit, tended either to fall foul of their least favourite referee, David Bishop, or else become over-excited. 'There is a difference between speed and haste,' Berbizier sighed.

There is also a difference between a pack of leaden-footed behemoths and one of athletes and thank goodness this game showed that size alone guarantees nothing. France's forwards - 'the biggest pack ever assembled', according to Dwyer - weighed an average of half a stone more than Australia's and much good it did them.

The 20st lock Olivier Merle, supposedly the irresistible new force of French rugby, did not win a single line-out and contributed more for the Wallabies by conceding penalties than for his own side. Change the 'l' of his surname for a 'd' and that is roughly how he played.

In the end, France were restricted to a single penalty by Thierry Lacroix and they finally mounted a sustained period of pressure only when the game was beyond them. Far from being a misrepresentation, the score would have been even wider if Australia had more ruthlessly exploited the breaks made by Jason Little and Tim Horan as well as Lynagh but, even so, they were scarcely complaining as they celebrated the Parisian night away.

What they had achieved was quite enough as it was. Australia may still not have won a series in France but this was comfortably their biggest win over France, and not only their first at Parc des Princes but their first in Paris since their predecessors first visited the city in 1928.

Roebuck's try five minutes from half-time concluded a fabulous move by the Wallabies in which the ball went through 19 pairs of hands, was recycled by the forwards and handled by the scrum-half, Peter Slattery, five times. With 12 minutes left, Tim Gavin was the beneficiary when Lynagh's wicked up- and-under was spilled by Jean-Luc Sadourny.

In winning so well they may even have saved Dwyer his job, which comes up for reappointment at the beginning of December. After the Bordeaux defeat, which should have been a victory, the sports pages back home had been full of it, with 'Dwyer's future in doubt' and 'Dwyer on the carpet' among the headlines.

The age-old garden-fence quarrel between the rugby men of Queensland and New South Wales means that Dwyer, as a New South Welshman, cannot win with Queenslanders as long as the Wallabies lose. So when, on Saturday night, he described it as 'a hard, hard game, one of the hardest I've ever seen', it was as if it had been almost as hard for him to watch as for his players to play in.

France: Penalty Lacroix. Australia: Tries Roebuck, Gavin; Conversion Roebuck; Penalties Roebuck 4.

FRANCE: J-L Sadourny (Colomiers); P Bernat- Salles (Pau), P Sella (Agen), T Lacroix (Dax), P Saint-Andre (Montferrand); A Penaud (Brive), A Hueber (Toulon); L Armary (Lourdes), J-M Gonzalez (Bayonne), L Seigne (Merignac), O Merle (Grenoble), O Roumat (Dax, capt), P Benetton (Agen), M Cecillon (Bourgoin), A Benazzi (Agen). Replacement: S Graou (Auch) for Seigne, 78.

AUSTRALIA: M Roebuck; D Campese (New South Wales), T Horan, J Little, D Smith (Queensland); M Lynagh (capt), P Slattery (Queensland); A Daly, P Kearns, E McKenzie (New South Wales), R McCall, G Morgan (Queensland), M Brial, T Gavin (New South Wales), D Wilson (Queensland).

Referee: D Bishop (New Zealand).

South Africa nearly threw away a 19- point half-time lead before gaining a

29-26 win in the first Test against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday.