Michalak leads France over Wallabies
This was payback. With Armistice Day looming and memories swirling of their 2010 humiliation, an incensed France set about dismantling the Wallabies' newfound confidence with a 27-point monstering of the tourists on Saturday night (Sunday morning NZT).
The 33-6 result left Australia's record in Paris as sullied as the gold jerseys smeared with mud at Stade de France. It is only the second time the Wallabies have lost in the French capital in almost 20 years and gives their last loss - 27-14 in 2004 - a retrospective rose-tint.
Tries to blistering No 8 Louis Picamoles and winger Wesley Fofana, plus a second-half penalty try, went unanswered by the Wallabies, whose attack submitted to France's trademark ferocious physicality. The Australians were confined to two first-half penalties and kept scoreless in the second half.
''I'm proud of the players. French rugby is a bit like that, when we're scared we can do great things,'' coach Philippe Saint-Andre said.
''We tried to be very combative, very aggressive in the ruck. I think that was the key.
''I told the players to savor the moment, beating a southern hemisphere side doesn't happen very often and putting 30 points on them is rarer still. I think the Australians cracked mentally at some point.''
About the only positive that could be found at the end of the 80-minute rout was that the injury-battered Wallabies sustained no further casualties in Paris. The mental scarring will be harder to repair.
The French took a seven point lead within 13 minutes and stretched it to 10 points by half time as the Australians butchered ample possession and the French stamped early - and enduring - dominance over the Wallabies' scrum. Picamoles's try in the 12th minute and the seasoned boot of veteran five-eighth Freddie Michalak put the French at a 16-6 advantage at the break.
Australia managed only two penalties, in the ninth and 22nd minutes, despite enjoying even possession for most of the half. The Wallabies knew they needed to start fast but their attack struggled on the muddy Stade de France pitch, resulting in dropped high balls, passes to ghosts and countless knock-ons. When they did not cough up their own ball, the French defused the attacked and countered.
In the second half the Wallabies could not muster the spirit or execution that turned a similar situation on its head two years ago.
''It was a very complete performance from the French, they were too good for us tonight,'' coach Robbie Deans said.
''They grew in confidence. We opened the door in some way with our inaccuracies.
''We always figured they were going to come out with a lot of intensity''.
The sting in Australia's forward play, administered to great effect against the All Blacks last month, was absent on Saturday night. Replacements Radike Samo and Stephen Moore, who became Australia's most-capped hooker with that performance, invigorated the Australian attack about 20 minutes too late.
French fullback Brice Dulin and winger Wesley Fofana cut through the Wallabies line to apply immense pressure on a number of occasions, while Michalak's exploitation of the midfield channel delivered Fofana an easy second-half try.
Berrick Barnes was sent in to relieve Mike Harris at fullback but his experience mattered little. Michalak, who scored 15 points for the French, including a drop goal, made the conversion and took the French to an unassailable 23-6 lead.
The penalty try and another penalty in the 77th minute took France to 33-6 over the tourists. It was a painful first northern hemisphere experience for many Wallabies, including Nick Cummins, Ben Tapuai, Kane Douglas, Michael Hooper and Paddy Ryan.
Replacement lock Rob Simmons was lucky not to be sent off for a tip tackle on French flanker Yannick Nyanga. Referee Nigel Owens was heard to apologise to France skipper Pascal Pape for not sending Simmons off because he could determine who made the tackle. Simmons may not have such luck with IRB officials after the game.
"It didn't work out the way we'd like it to [have] but France played very, very well," captain Nathan Sharpe said.
''England will look at that game and see a lot that will excite them,'' Deans said, looking ahead to next weekend's game.
France 33 (Louis Picamoles, Wesley Fofana tries; penalty try; Frederic Michalak 3 conversions, 2 penalties, dropped goal, Morgan Parra penalty), Australia 6 (Mike Harris 2 penalties). HT: 16-6
- Sydney Morning Herald and AP