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'A game of inches': France leave it late to beat Wallabies

By AAP
Antoine Dupont of France is tackled by Len Ikitau of Australia during the Autumn Nations Series match between France and Australia on November 05, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

France have denied the Wallabies an epic victory, snatching a record 11th straight Test win to underline their 2023 Rugby World Cup favouritism.

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A try to winger Damian Penaud five minutes from fulltime earned Les Bleus a dramatic 30-29 triumph in Paris on Sunday morning (AEDT).

The Wallabies produced a 95-metre contender for try of the year but ultimately paid the price once more for their ill-discipline and lack of attention to detail at Stade de France.

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Sharp-shooting fullback Thomas Ramos punished the Wallabies for their every infringement, nailing six penalty goals and a conversion for a telling 20-point individual haul.

“It’s a game of inches, isn’t it,” rued Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.

“We got away with a tight one last week and we finished second tonight. It is what it is.”

French captain Antoine Dupont expressed relief at his side’s Houdini act.

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“We had trouble the whole game. But we got the win and it’s important to win in different ways,” Dupont said.

“We lacked control and it almost cost us dearly.”

France’s 11-game winning run eclipses Les Bleus’ record from the 1930s. The streak includes a first Six Nations Grand Slam in 12 years and a 2-0 series win in Japan in July.

Bernard Foley had a mixed game, setting up a second-half try for debutant fullback Jock Campbell and drilling four penalties and two conversions but also making a couple of costly blunders.

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But Rennie’s decision to remove the veteran playmaker seven minutes from time bewildered former Wallabies in commentary as Les Bleus struck late to break Australian hearts.

The Wallabies had made an early statement, Taniela Tupou earning a stirring scrum penalty to show Les Blues the Australian pack wouldn’t be pushed around.

But Foley’s fourth-minute penalty was quickly countered by two replies from Ramos before the Wallabies levelled the scores when Michael Hooper was taken out off the ball.

In a wild three minutes, France looked to have grabbed a seven-point lead but instead found themselves down 13-6 after flanker Charles Ollivon had a try overturned for a double movement before the Wallabies went the length of the field to stun the home crowd.

A tap-back from Foley five metres from his own line to Len Ikitau set the dazzling movement in motion.

The ball spread left from Ikatau, to Campbell and Jed Holloway all the way to speedy winger Tom Wright, who burnt the French defence before firing a lovely inside pass to Lalakai Foketi to finish off a magical try.

Foketi, though, didn’t last much longer, the centre succumbing to an ankle injury, forcing Hunter Paisami into the Wallabies midfield.

Two more Ramos penalties reduced France’s deficit to one point before a coach killer from Foley after the halftime siren led to Les Bleus snatching the lead.

France swooped on a loose, unnecessary pass from Foley near halfway and hooker Julien Marchand eventually dotted down next to the sticks.

The Wallabies regained the lead when Campbell capitalised on Foley’s long ball to cross in the 56th minute as Australia threatened a huge upset in pursuit of back-to-back wins for the first time in 16 months.

Alas, Penaud had the final say when he evaded Wright, then fended off Campbell to touch down in the right-hand corner.

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