Australia take series with dull 6-0 win over France
Both sides guilty of making too many errors in uninspiring clash at the Docklands stadium
Nathan Charles scuffles with France’s Frederic Michalak during final minutes of their second test in Melbourne. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters
Australia prevailed 6-0 over France in a dour, try-less contest on Saturday to seal the three-test series 2-0 and leave a subdued Melbourne crowd cold.
In a low-quality clash littered with handling errors, second half penalties from outhalf Bernard Foley and scrumhalf Nic White were enough for the Wallabies to seal a scrappy win despite perfect conditions under the closed roof of Docklands stadium.
Having allowed the Wallabies to do what they pleased in the 50-23 opener in Brisbane, a more resolute Les Bleus, complete with 10 changes to the starting lineup, had the better of a scoreless first half, though rarely posed any attacking threat until a last-gasp raid in the final minutes.
Playing in Melbourne, heartland of Australian Rules football, the Wallabies appeared determined to kick away possession, but derived little advantage from the tactic, and blew several promising drives with poor execution.
France executed the first promising move, however, a kick forward in the third minute sparking a foot-race between Foley and fullback Brice Dulin to the line, but the Wallabies flyhalf prevailed by inches to cut off the chance.
The Wallabies were controversially denied what would have been the match’s opening try to number eight Ben McCalman on video review in the 22nd minute, prompting howls of derision from the stands.
A smart chipped kick from inside the French 22-yard line by inside centre Matt Toomua allowed McCalman to touch down but in the wild scramble toward the line Toomua was deemed to have tackled an opponent without the ball, though the contact was minimal and superfluous to the play.
After Dulin missed a long-range penalty in the opening quarter, scrumhalf Morgan Parra botched a second three minutes before the break, leaving both teams scoreless to halftime and a crowd of 27,000 frustrated.
Wallabies scrumhalf White repaid the favour twice in two minutes straight after the re-start, spraying the first kick wide and striking the post with the second, and though the rebound opened up a scoring chance out wide, the home side left it begging with a pass that sailed too high.
Foley finally ticked the scoreboard over in the 53rd minute with a penalty kick from straight in front, drawing ironic cheers from the crowd.
France was perhaps the more profligate, however, their few forays into the Wallabies’ half cut short by an errant pass or handling error.
An off-side penalty against replacement flanker Antoine Burban gave White a penalty he could not miss in the 65th minute but the scrum-half sprayed a simple chance to make it 9-0 with nine minutes left.
France pushed in vain for a try in the final minutes, briefly rousing the unenthused crowd but the Wallabies cut off the threat to win their sixth successive match before next week’s final test in Sydney.