France lose first test against Australia

France's XV lost their first match in the Southern Hemisphere against the Wallabies in Sydney. They will play Australia again next Saturday in Brisbane.


Australia recovered from a sloppy start to crush an under-strength France 34-13 in their first test at the Olympic stadium on Saturday. 

The Wallabies, in only their second match under new coach Robbie Deans, struggled to find any cohesion in a scrappy opening before finally clicking into gear and running in four tries in the last 45 minutes. 

Flyhalf Matt Giteau, lock Nathan Sharpe, flanker Rocky Elsom and captain Stirling Mortlock all crossed over as the Wallabies fell just short of their record 23-point winning margin over the French, the 35-12 World Cup final victory in 1999.

Deans said the Wallabies had shown some encouraging signs of improvement from their 18-12 win over Ireland two weeks ago but they still had plenty to work on.

"That was an improved performance. We sustained our attack for longer," he told a news conference. 

"We made a few mistakes in the first half but showed a bit more patience in the second and were able to profit from that."

France, who had to field a weakened team with many top players unavailable because of club commitments, scored a late consolation try through debutant winger Alexis Palisson after scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili landed two first half penalties. 

Coach Marc Lievremont admitted his inexperienced team had been outplayed but said he was proud of their effort. 

"It was never going to be a case where we ran over the Wallaby forwards," Lievremont said through a translator.

"But there is still some satisfaction because there was a lot of courage in defence. There are a lot of sore players in the dressing room right now."

Dour start

The match failed to reach any great heights as both sides struggled to control possession in a dour first period punctuated by handling errors. 

Locked at 3-3 five minutes before halftime, Australian fullback Cameron Shepherd provided the half's lone highlight by launching a rare counterattack from inside his team's quarter. 

Shepherd offloaded to wing Adam Ashley-Cooper, a replacement for the injured Lote Tuqiri, and after he was brought down, the Australians quickly recycled to allow Giteau to slice through and score the first of his 19 points. 

Australia led 10-6 at halftime but piled on 24 unanswered second half points to put the result beyond doubt as the combinations started to work properly. 

"We're playing a fairly new style of attack and defence and it's not going to happen straight away," Mortlock said. 

"I think we did improve but the key is to keep moving forward and build on this." 

First Sharpe barged his way over from close-range shortly after the re-start when lively scrumhalf Luke Burgess made a bust, then Elsom galloped over after inside centre Berrick Barnes had been held up over the line.

Mortlock, who had troubled the French all night with his bulldozing runs from centre, intercepted an inside pass off Damien Traille to score unopposed. Giteau landed his fourth conversion of the night after booting two penalties. 

With the match safe, Deans used the last quarter to clear the bench but the Wallabies were unable to score again and conceded a try to Palisson who wriggled his way over after being crash-tackled by Mortlock. 

The second and final test is in Brisbane next week.

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