Matt Giteau scored all the points as Australia claimed a 22-6 victory over France in Sydney.
While the result was a comfortable one, the Wallabies were by no means at their best and France were always going to struggle to replicate the heroics they produced against the All Blacks a fortnight ago after coach Marc Lievremont was forced to make a number of changes due to injury.
Earlier in the week Lievremont claimed that Giteau had surpassed Dan Carter as the world’s premier flyhalf, and while Giteau would be the first to admit it was not one of his best games, his accuracy in front of goal was superb.
The Wallabies made a good start to the first stanza, dominating possession in the opening quarter. However, the French were doing a good job of keeping the hosts at bay with some robust defence.
The Wallabies eventually got the breakthrough on 17 minutes when some good interplay between Lachie Turner, Berrick Barnes and Matt Giteau, coupled with some poor defence from the French backs saw the Wallaby flyhalf run in for an easy finish which he converted with Aplomb to give the hosts a 7-0 lead.
While the French had the upper hand at lineout time, the scrums were an area of contention in the first half with France dominating the opening exchanges before the Wallabies began to find their feet and take control.
The breakdowns were fiercely contested and the French were more accurate early on, but their hard work was often undone by some dubious calls from referee Dave Pearson. But as the game wore on the Wallabies began to boss the tackle point as George Smith’s influence on the game started to grow.
While the Wallabies had most of the ball in the firs half, at times they looked to be trying a little too hard. Their tactical kicking which had been at the heart of their victories over Italy deserted them this time around as a number of their kicks went a stray.
Despite ever really threatening, France started to play some decent rugby towards the end of the first half and would have hoped to have carried that momentum into the next 40 minutes.
But it was not to be as poor discipline ultimately ruined their chances of a second-half come back. The French conceded penalties with metronomic regularity and Giteau was on hand to punish them kicking five successful penalties.
The Wallabies would have been pleased with their defensive work, coach Robbie Deans will know that they are capable of producing much more and will certainly have to step it up when they face the All Blacks on 18 July in Auckland.
By Andrew Worling