Our set piece was part of the challenge
Australian coach Robbie Deans was left shell-shocked and searching for answers after seeing his team convincingly put to the sword by an aggressive France team that stifled any plan for a width-based Wallaby gameplan.
France notched up two tries from Louis Picamoles and Wesley Fofana along with a penalty try (for persistent scrum infringements) and 15 points from Frederic Michalak's boot and a late Morgan Parra penalty in running out 33-6 winners.
Deans' team had only two first-half Mike Harris penalties to their credit and went into the break 16-6 down despite dominating territory and possession.
But Deans pinpointed the French attitude at contact and discipline in defence as key to his Wallabies, featuring an exciting backline, unable to express themselves fully.
And with England at Twickenham on the cards next weekend, before tricky trips to Italy and Wales, the Kiwi coach realises improvement is needed to get their November tour back on track.
"It was a very complete performance from the French. They were too good for us," Deans said.
"They grew in confidence. It was an arm wrestle for a bit, but they deserved their victory."
France were merciless in attacking the Australian set-piece, notably in the scrum.
It was no coincidence that Picamoles' try was a direct result from pressure on the Wallaby eight, and the penalty try was rightly awarded by Welsh referee Nigel Owens with the French turning the screw on an Australian front-row in complete disarray.
"Our set piece was part of the challenge and the effectiveness of the French around the contact meant we had no momentum, so when we tried to play to width in the second half, it was ineffective," Deans conceded.
France, he said, "stymied our momentum, we were unable to create any effective recycling of the ball and we turned over a lot of ball in the contact area.
"In terms of the scrum, the French grew in confidence, just like their game.
"They started to play with a lot more exuberance and got in behind us."
Deans said his team would have to improve "significantly, there's no doubt about that" for next weekend's match against England, 54-12 victors over Fiji on Saturday.
"They'll look to bring the same sort of pressure and try to shut us down."
Veteran lock Nathan Sharpe, the fourth captain of Australia this season after injuries to James Horwill, David Pocock and Will Genia, admitted that the final touch had let his side down.
"We knew they were going to come out with intensity," said Sharpe, winning his 113th cap. "Our intensity was good but our execution let us down.
"We were in good field position and gave away possession."
Wallaby fly-half Kurtley Beale, who was closely marked all night and was the target of several double-man tackles, acclaimed the French pack as the cornerstone of their victory.
"They were mentally ready for the match," said Beale, whose place at No 10 was taken by the steadier Berrick Barnes late in the game.
"Their pack was tough and mobile. We held out but they wanted it more.
"They'd studied our gameplan well. We should have been more disciplined, played more intelligently, simply -- what the French did.
"We should have occupied more territory, as Michalak did. I think we tried to play too much."