France claim big win over Eddie Jones’ Wallabies before World Cup
France will go into the upcoming Rugby World Cup with plenty of confidence after another Test triumph, but the same can’t be said for the Wallabies.
Playing in front of a relentlessly vocal crowd at Stade de France on Sunday, the Wallabies showed plenty of fight and character against a spirited Les Bleus outfit.
Australia deserves some praise for their efforts, sure, but the men in gold are still yet to register a win under coach Jones after falling to their fifth defeat in as many starts – losing 41-17.
Walking through the streets of Saint-Denis, and up into the stands at Stade de France, it was immediately apparent why this venue is one of the most famous in Test rugby.
It isn’t just a stadium for the French, it’s a fortress. Ahead of the Rugby World Cup on home soil, the French wanted to make a statement – so the fans brought plenty of passion and noise.
There was no sign of Les Bleus about 40 minutes before kick-off, but then, almost suddenly, captain Antoine Dupont was met with a deafening cheer as the halfback made his way out onto the field.
The fans helped set the stage for what promised to be an enthralling Summer Nations Series fixture in the north of Paris. It was one of the best sporting atmospheres that this writer has experienced.
Following the national anthems, young Wallabies flyhalf Carter Gordon kicked off proceedings at 5.46 pm.
Both teams played a bit of kicktennis throughout the opening minute or so before referee Luke Pearce intervened. Pearce raised his arm up in favour of the Wallabies, and the crowd went uncharacteristically quiet.
Towering lock Will Skelton pointed towards the sticks for the first time as Wallabies captain. Carter Gordon was given the first opportunity to strike at Stade de France.
Much to the delight of the home crowd, Gordon sent his attempt wide. Les Bleus had an opportunity to relieve some pressure with a 22-metre drop-out.
But the Wallabies returned the ball with a vengeance. Wing Mark Nawaqanitawase made a break down the left edge, and suddenly, they were back inside the French 22 for the second time in as many minutes.
But the Wallabies were their own worst enemy once again. Just as it has been for more than a year, the Aussies’ poor discipline cost them in key moments.
Australia gave away a penalty, which gave Les Bleus another opportunity to kick their way out of pressure. But this time, they’d retain the ball.
France made their way down the other end of the field, and with their first attack of the Wallabies’ try line, scored through inside centre Jonathan Danty.
Danty, 30, ran without fear as he charged onto a short ball from captain Dupont. The midfielder received the ball about five metres out from the line, and wasn’t going to be denied.
Playing against a fiery French side and their home fans, the Wallabies needed to score next – and they did.
Nawaqanitawase scored six minutes later in the left corner, which gave Gordon a chance to level the Test at 7-all. Unfortunately for the Wallabies, the young No. 10 missed that attempt as well.
But the Wallabies were well and truly in the fight. They refused to throw in the towel, and were playing with plenty of front-foot ball.
Australia still trailed by two, sure, but it could’ve been worse.
The second quarter of the Test was a goal-kicking duel between Gordon and French fullback Thomas Ramos.
Ramos was perfect off the kicking tee with three successful attempts to round out the half. As for Gordon, the playmaker missed a third shot at goal. Les Bleus went into the half leading 16-5.
Three minutes into the second half, Ramos was given another opportunity to extend France’s lead. Lining up a shot from inside the Wallabies’ 22, it seemed relatively routine.
But the fullback hooked the shot wide left.
The Wallabies and their fans breathed a sigh of relief, but only for a moment. Ramos didn’t miss at the second time of trying in the 54th minute, and wing Damin Penaud scored just a couple of minutes later.
Entering the final quarter of the Test, Les Bleus were leading 26-5. The vibrant crowd were in full voice, and their rugby heroes showed no signs of slowing down.
Wing Suliasi Vunivalu was sent to the sin bin during a fiery second half, but it wasn’t all bad news for the visitors. The Wallabies made their mark with a try to flanker Fraser McReight.
But France bounced back.
Wing Gabin Villiere all but sealed the deal for Les Bleus with their third try of the Test. France led by a commanding score of 31-12 with about 15 minutes to play.
French flyer Damian Penaud crossed for his second with less than 10 minutes to play as Les Bleus completed their demolition of the Wallabies.
Australia’s Suliasi Vunivalu had the last laugh with a try late in the piece, but the damage had already been done.