The Wallabies overcame a wretched build-up and some dogged French resistance to maintain an unbeaten record on their European tour with a nailbiting victory in Paris on Saturday.
For the second week in a row, the Wallabies rallied from a second-half deficit to squeeze out an 18-13 win at Stade de France.
It was Australia’s first triumph over Les Bleus on enemy territory in eight years and also gave the Wallabies their first back-to-back spring tour wins over England and France in a decade.
But they certainly did it the hard way and needed a dreadful goalkicking performance from French flyhalf David Skrela to avoid defeat.
Skrela missed five shots at penalty goal – including two in the tense final 10 minutes that would have put France in front – as well as being off target with a simple drop goal attempt from in front in the first half.
Skrela then completed a nightmare match in the sin bin after being yellow-carded for a high tackle on Wallabies winger Digby Ioane, one of the stars for Australia after being called on to start just three hours before kick-off when Ryan Cross was ruled out with a nasty virus.
With Cross out, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was forced to reshuffle his backline, moving Adam Ashley-Cooper to outside centre, with Drew Mitchell going to fullback and Ioane starting on the left wing.
After falling behind 13-10 in the 52nd minute following a rare Skrela penalty, the Wallabies regained the lead through a try to winger Peter Hynes five minutes later, after some good hands from five-eighth Matt Giteau and skipper Stirling Mortlock.
Despite some hairy moments, the Wallabies then hung on for another spirited win.
Halfback Luke Burgess, who was laid low with the flu during the week, came in for some particularly torrid treatment early as the French forwards threw everything into the opening exchanges.
If not for Skrela’s wayward kicking, France could have established quite a useful lead in the first half.
After finally building some momentum, Australia opened the scoring with a Giteau penalty goal in the 29th minute.
Seemingly gaining the ascendancy, Australia increased their advantage to 10-0 when Stephen Moore charged over two minutes later, the hooker’s one-handed putdown completing some patient and well-constructed phase play from the Wallabies.
But just as the intensity dropped in the few minutes before halftime last week against England, the Wallabies again appeared to lose focus as the break loomed.
The pressure told when a wild pass from Burgess sailed way over Giteau’s head and then over the Australian deadball line, leading to a 5m scrum for France.
The French forwards drove the Australian pack backwards before South African referee Craig Jourbert awarded the home team a penalty try, presumably for the Wallabies deliberately bringing down the scrum.
The crowd was in raptures when Skrela slotted the conversion from in front to leave France trailing by just three points at the interval.
The French drew level seven minutes into the second half through Skrela’s second and final penalty goal before fullback Maxime Medard raised the roof at Stade de France with a left-footed drop goal from close to halfway.
Jourbert was initially unsure whether the shot had the legs but, after several video checks, the third match official awarded three points to France, giving the hosts a 13-10 lead in the 52nd minute.
But the Wallabies dug deep and ultimately got home through Hynes’s try five minutes later.