France edge Australia with late try
REPORT: Wing Damian Penaud scored in the 76th minute as France beat Australia 30-29 in Paris on Saturday.
In a tight affair at the Stade de France, less than 10 months away from the Rugby World Cup, Penaud crossed to secure Les Bleus’ record 11th straight Test win.
France head coach Fabien Galthie was forced into a late change with replacement lock Killian Geraci ruled out due to a knee issue and wing Matthis Lebel taking his place on the bench.
Galthie’s Australia counterpart Dave Rennie made four changes from last weekend’s one-point win over Scotland giving fullback Jock Campbell his first Test start.
As the smoke from the pre-match fireworks dispersed, the Wallabies’ veteran flyhalf Bernard Foley opened the scoring with a penalty after four minutes before Thomas Ramos kicked two to put France ahead 6-3 after 10 minutes.
Foley equalised before France’s first foray into the Australia 22m as flank Charles Ollivon, who lost the France captaincy for this series, was denied his 10th Test try for a double movement after 15 minutes.
Less than three minutes later the Stade de France crowd was stunned as the Wallabies went from their own 5m line to score as centre Lalakai Foketi crossed in superb fashion.
Foley kicked the conversion before missing the chance to extend the lead with a simple penalty after 25 minutes.
Ramos cut the deficit to a point with two shots at goal before hooker Julian Marchand claimed the lead for the hosts, Six Nations Grand Slam champions, with a pick and go after a Gael Fickou kick.
Ramos was successful with the extras as Les Bleus led 19-13 at the break.
Hodge off the bench
Two minutes after the interval, 33-year-old Foley, on his 75th Test appearance, made it 19-16 with a penalty with France offside in open play before Ramos re-established a six-point lead.
With half an hour to play Ramos missed for the first time with a shot from 50m before three-quarter Campbell celebrated his maiden international start by sliding over to score for Australia.
Foley added the touchline conversion and Rennie’s side led 23-22 with a little over 20 minutes to go.
The playmaker and Ramos traded penalties to make it 26-25 highlighting why Galthie said in the week his side were preparing for the most difficult final quarter of a game of his three-year tenure.
With five minutes to go Foley’s replacement Reece Hodge repaid Rennie’s faith by kicking a penalty to make it 29-25 but the final word went to Penaud.
He caught substitute Jalibert’s looping pass before beating two would-be tacklers for his 10th Test try.
Ramos missed the difficult conversion but Galthie’s men held on to break the record set in the 1930s.
Man of the match: There were plenty of contenders for this award, but it has to go to France No.7 Charles Ollivon for his overall performance. He was a beast in open play, especially his work in the physical exchanges.
Tries: Marchand, Penaud
Pens: Ramos 6
Tries: Foketi, Campbell
Cons: Foley 2
Pens: Foley 4, Hodge
France: 15 Thomas Ramos; 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Yoram Moefana; 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont (captain); 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Anthony Jelonch; 5 Thibaud Flament, 4 Cameron Woki; 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Sipili Falatea, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Killian Geraci, 21 Sekou Macalou, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Matthieu Jalibert.
Australia: 15 Jock Campbell; 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Tom Wright; 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nic White; 8 Rob Valentini, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jed Holloway; 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Nick Frost; 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 David Porecki, 1 James Slipper (captain).
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Matt Gibson, 18 Tom Robertson, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Hunter Paisami, 23 Reece Hodge.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)