France v Australia
Below-par Australia edge past France
November 22, 2008
Date/Time: Nov 22, 2008, 21:00 local, 20:00 GMT
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
France 13 - 18 Australia
Attendance: 70000  Half-time: 7 - 10
Tries: Penalty
Cons: Skrela
Pens: Skrela
Drops: Medard
Tries: Hynes, Moore
Cons: Giteau
Pens: Giteau 2
France fly-half David Skrela takes on the Australian defence at the Stade de France, November 22 2008
David Skrela attacks the Australian line, but he endured mixed fortunes in Paris
© Getty Images
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Teams: Australia | France

France fly-half David Skrela endured a desperate night with the boot as a below-par Australia earned a smash-and-grab win in Paris tonight to stay undefeated on their European tour. Toulouse number 10 Skrela was barracked by the Stade de France crowd after missing five penalties that ultimately decided a tight, nervy contest.

Australia were second best but their opportunistic finishing was deadly, hooker Stephen Moore and winger Peter Hynes scoring their tries either side of half-time. Fly-half Matt Giteau kicked two penalties and a conversion as the Wallabies made it three wins out of three in November, following on from victories over Italy and England.

The French were granted a penalty try at the end of the first half, with Skrela converting that but he could land just one of his six penalty attempts overall. Full-back Maxime Medard had put the hosts 13-10 up with a drop-goal in the 52nd minute but they could not push on from that, despite plenty of possession.

Skrela will earn all the headlines for the wrong reasons tomorrow, and to top off an awful night for him, he was yellow-carded at the death. The Australians somehow went into the break 10-7 ahead despite posing very few problems in a lively but error-strewn first half.

They had been forced into a last-minute change, centre Ryan Cross pulling out just prior to kick-off and Digby Ioane drafted off the bench and into the starting line-up. It meant a backline reshuffle, with Ioane going to the left wing, Drew Mitchell reverting to full-back and Adam Ashley-Cooper filling in at outside centre, where Cross had been down to play. If Skrela had found his range in that first half, France could have been well clear by half-time, but instead he incurred the wrath of the notoriously fickle Paris crowd and the Wallabies made hay.

Skrela and Stirling Mortlock traded early penalty misses before Giteau landed a 29th-minute three-pointer to give the Australians a barely deserved lead. Having produced nothing up until that point, the tourists were given a timely lift and they scored the match's first try soon after.

Ashley-Cooper made the inroads down the right wing and the ball was quickly recycled out to Moore, who barged over from close range. Giteau converted. Skrela's miserable night with the boot continued when he hooked wide two more penalties in the final seven minutes of the half, earning jeers from the crowd.

But France were granted a lifeline in the half's last act when referee Craig Joubert awarded a penalty try after a creaking Australia scrum was forced to infringe cynically on their own line. Even Skrela could not miss the conversion in front of the posts and with the half-time hooter sounding immediately, it was game on.

The beleaguered Skrela was given a sympathetic cheer when he nailed a penalty in the 46th minute to bring the scores level and France were well in the ascendancy by then. Medard then booted an audacious 40-yard drop-goal, the effort needing the say-so of video referee Giulio De Santis, to give Les Bleus the lead for the first time.

It did not last long. Australia were handed a bit of go-forward when France were penalised twice at the breakdown and the visitors found themselves in enemy territory. They often make the most of the slightest chance and they did so here, Giteau and Mortlock allowing Hynes to go over in the right corner on the hour mark.

Giteau missed the conversion, leaving the scoreline tantalisingly poised at 15-13. Skrela could have put France back in the lead but he horribly missed penalties in the 70th and 72nd minutes and he paid the price when Giteau booted his second penalty of the night, in the 75th minute, to secure the Wallabies the victory.

To cap off a terrible night for Skrela, he was sent to the sin-bin with four minutes left for a high tackle on Ioane.

France: Medard, Malzieu, Jauzion, Baby, Heymans, Skrela, Tillous-Borde, Faure, Szarzewski, Mas, Chabal, Nallet, Dusautoir, Ouedraogo, Harinordoquy.

Replacements: Palisson for Malzieu (78), Traille for Baby (35), Tomas for Tillous-Borde (77), Kayser for Szarzewski (56), Lecouls for Mas (58), Millo-Chulski for Nallet (42), Picamoles for Dusautoir (69).

Sin Bin: Skrela (75).

Australia: Ashley-Cooper, Hynes, Cross, Mortlock, Mitchell, Giteau, Burgess, Alexander, Moore, Baxter, McMeniman, Sharpe, Mumm, Smith, Palu.

Replacements: Cooper for Ashley-Cooper (75), Kepu for Burgess (64), Cordingley for Alexander (65), Chisholm for Palu (59). Not Used: Polota-Nau, Pocock, Ioane.

Att: 70,000

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa).

Assistant Referees: C. White (Eng), D. Changleng (Sco)
Television Match Official: G. De Santis (Ita)


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