France up to fourth in the IRB rankings
Frederic Michalak scored 15 points as he steered France to a convincing 33-6 victory over Australia on Saturday, to move the home side into fourth place in the IRB rankings ahead of next month's World Cup draw.
Michalak claimed a perfect kicking record of six from six with two penalties, three conversions and a drop-goal, and the mercurial fly-half set up the second of France's tries by Wesley Fofana.
No.8 Louis Picamoles had scored the home side's first five-pointer, the third coming by way of a penalty try.
The Toulon playmaker importantly marshalled a magnificently disciplined French defence that survived sustained periods of pressure, notably in the first half in which full-back Mike Harris scored Australia's two sole penalties.
France fullback Brice Dulin's early effort at a drop-goal went askew but Michalak nailed his first penalty from the next phase of the game after Wycliff Palu was caught offside, Harris levelling shortly after.
France showed their attacking intent by spurning a shot at goal when Australia infringed three times at the first proper scrum test.
And it paid off when Picamoles went barging through a gaping hole on the blindside for a try Michalak converted.
Harris pulled back three points with his second penalty as France went to ground in a ruck close to their own line.
The Wallabies were content to camp out in French territory and dominate possession, going through dozens of pick-and-go's before fly-half Kurtley Beale tried to exploit any overlap on the wide.
But that tactic floundered as final passes went amiss and the disciplined French defence held firm with some stout tackling led by Nyanga and centre Maxime Mermoz.
When Picamoles wrestled a ball free from a ruck and launched a rare sortie into the Australian half, the crowd rised to their feet, only to sigh in despair as supporting debutant prop Yannick Forestier failed to hold on to the pass.
Against the run of play, Michalak kicked a second penalty after Sekope Kepu failed to roll away from a ruck and then struck a perfect drop-goal to put France 16-6 up at half-time.
Hopes that the French would not capitulate as they had done in their 59-16 thrashing by the Wallabies in 2010 after leading 16-13 at half-time were raised as Les Bleus took the game to the visitors early in the second period.
Wing Fofana linked up with flankers Fulgence Ouedraogo and Nyanga, playing his first Test since 2007, to threaten the Australian line.
When Michalak ghosted his way around Beale, the 30-year-old Toulon playmaker obviously didn't have the legs for the line, but Fofana came racing up in support to score a try Michalak converted.
Welsh referee Nigel Owens then had no hesitation in handing the French a penalty try after an increasingly ragged Australian scrum fell into disarray on their line.
With replacement Rob Simmons lucky to escape a sanction for a spear tackle on the impressive Nyanga, Adam Ashley-Cooper was denied a try by the video referee.
Replacement Morgan Parra had the last word with a long-range penalty to leave France one point off their record 34-6 win over the Wallabies in 1976 and Australia coach Robbie Deans much to ponder before taking on England at Twickenham next weekend.
Tries: Picamoles, Fofana, Penalty try
Cons: Michalak 3
Pens: Michalak 3
Pens: Harris 2
Man of the match: There were many French heroes, not many in the Wallaby side. Wesley Fofana was huge with the ball in hand, while Frederic Michalak directed the traffic and played a huge role in the Fofana try - just a pity his kicking out of hand has not been on par with the rest of his game. Our award goes to French No.8 Louis Picamoles - who produced a number of surging runs and scored a crucial first-half try.
Moment of the match: It simply has to the Wesley Fofana try in the 55th minute - when the wing went over for his team's second five-pointer, after Frederic Michalak had cut the Wallaby line to ribbons. While the penalty try in the 65th minute killed off the match, Fofana's score was a sublime effort.
Villain of the match: This one goes to Wallaby replacement Rob Simmons, who was lucky the officials could not get his number after a very ugly spear tackle on Yannick Nyanga - the citing commissioner may well have another look at this.
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Wesley Fofana, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Vincent Clerc, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Jocelino Suta, 4 Pascal Pape (captain), 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Yannick Forestier.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Thomas Domingo, 18 Vincent Debaty, 19 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Francois Trinh-Duc, 23 Yoann Huget.
Australia: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Radike Samo, 21 Liam Gill, 22 Brett Sheehan, 23 Berrick Barnes.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Neil Paterson (Scotland)
TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)
rugby365 & AFP