French flyhalf David Skrela missed 18 points with the boot as they went down 18-13 to the Wallabies at the Stade de France.
It was Australia’s third successive win on tour and their first win over the hosts in France since 2000 – a match that produced the same scoreline.
But they have one person to thank – Skrela will have nightmares about his performance, not only the missed points, but to cap it off he was sent off with five minutes left for a high tackle as the hosts chased the game. The Toulouse pivot will be lucky if he finds himself in the French jersey ever again.
It was a simply uninspiring first half hour, the only moments of note were French flanker Thierry Dusatoir’s rib-crunching hits on Matt Giteau and George Smith. It was however Dusatoir’s infringement that allowed Giteau to open the scoring with a penalty.
That in turn set in motion the first Australian try two minutes later, as hooker Stephen Moore barged over.
The score could’ve, and should’ve been, very different however with five minutes left of the first half. Skrela missed his first four chances, one with a drop straight in front and three penalties. The poor kicking typified the nature of the game, nothing was executed with any precision, and thus the only points-scoring opportunities came via the shrill blow of referee Craig Joubert’s whistle.
The French made their comeback via the best route against the Wallabies – pulverising them up-front. A pushover try on the half-time siren was denied as the Wallaby scrum disintegrated, but Joubert awarded the penalty try. This narrowed the lead to three, but the Tricolores knew they should have been ahead, but their lack of territorial appreciation under the ELVs didn’t produce the desired results.
After the break the French put on their kicking boots for a while to punish Aussie indiscipline as Skrela finally nudged over a penalty, while fullback Maxime Medard kicked an audacious 50m drop-kick as they led for the first time at 13-10.
Peter Hynes however scored the winner with 20 minutes to go, and then Skrela duffed two attempted winning penalties to sum up his night.
If ever there was a game of missed opportunities, the French experienced the frustration tonight.
France - Try: Penalty try. Conversion: David Skrela. Penalty: Skrela. Dropped goal: Maxime Medard.
Australia - Tries: Stephen Moore, Peter Hynes. Conversion: Matt Giteau. Penalties: Giteau (2).
By Grant Ball