France cruises to 27-14 win over Australia

France 27 Australia 14
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The Independent Online

Six Nations champions France beat Australia 27-14 at Stade de France on Saturday to defeat the Wallabies in Paris for the first time in 21 years.

Six Nations champions France beat Australia 27-14 at Stade de France on Saturday to defeat the Wallabies in Paris for the first time in 21 years.

Fullback Nicolas Brusque and flyhalf Frederic Michalak scored tries and scrumhalf Jean-Baptiste Elissalde kicked five penalties for an eighth consecutive victory, equaling the French record in 2001-02. It was only their second win over Australia in their last 10 rugby union tests. "I am proud of my players. They battled to win this match by applying a lot of defensive pressure and taking risks," said France coach Bernard Laporte.

Captain George Gregan got the Wallabies' lone try and the defeat could have been heavier if not for some ferocious defense. Matt Giteau kicked two penalties for Australia, which led 11-5 until a magnificent solo try by Michalak just before halftime.

"In the first half we dominated without really taking advantage. But we never doubted," said France captain Fabien Pelous. "We have a set system in place and the players know how to manage it." France fielded four Toulouse backs and their complicity was evident as the home side carved through the Australia defense in the opening stages. Left wing Cedric Heymans and Brusque were both thwarted close to the line.

In the sixth minute, flyhalf Michalak's crossfield kick was heading straight into the hands of right wing Aurelien Rougerie until Lote Tuqiri punched the ball away, giving France a penalty. Michalak missed and Australia replied moments later to lead 3-0 when Giteau slotted his first penalty attempt.

In the 10th minute France hit back when Tuqiri's pass was intercepted. Elissalde fed Brusque who cut inside two defenders before touching down in the corner to put France ahead 5-3. Australia spent the next 15 minutes pinned in its half, repelling slick French attacks.

Against the run of play, Giteau struck his second penalty and veteran Gregan ran unopposed from 30 meters to score an unconverted try, putting Australia 11-5 up. But with seconds remaining until the interval, Michalak collected a pass and his quick turn and burst of speed took him clear and he touched down in the corner. Elissalde, replacing Michalak as the goalkicker, converted to make it 12-11.

Early second-half pressure by France was rewarded when Elissalde kicked a close-range penalty after Australia was caught offside, and then added another shortly after to make it 18-11. Australia suffered a further blow when Giteau left the field with an injury, replaced by Elton Flatley. A Flatley penalty midway through the second half pulled the Wallabies back to 18-14, but the visitors struggled to keep back further French attacks.

Michalak and Brusque were kept out just centimeters from the line, before Elissalde's third penalty made it 21-14. Wallaby flyhalf Stephen Larkham was penalized for obstructing Rougerie as he chased down a long kick, and Elissalde stepped up again to put France in a commanding 24-14 lead with 10 minutes remaining. A fifth penalty near time completed a deserved victory.