Australia started the game as 1000/1 on favourites to beat a France side who were taken apart by an impressive Lebanon in the opening round. Mal Meninga rested a number of players including Cooper Cronk and Dane Gagai, and James Maloney was a late withdrawal due to a ‘personal matter’.
The expected loss for France wouldn’t end their quarter final aspirations, so long as England beat Lebanon tomorrow, but they would then need to beat England next weekend.
There were over 12,000 in the Canberra Stadium to cheer on their heroes.
France held their own in the opening few minutes with the Kangaroos having a Tom Trbojevic try ruled out by the video referee on six minutes for an obstruction. On eleven the Aussies did open the scoring when Wade Graham used great strength to spin out of two tackles and drop over the line. Cameron Smith uncharacteristically missed the conversion.
On fourteen Graham got his second when he took an inside pass from Billy Slater to crash over the France defenders. This time Smith added the extras for 10-0. The French were suffering from a lack of possession and were now spending most of their time defending in their own half.
Mark Kheirallah scored a sensational try on twenty-three when he picked up a kick through just five metres from his own line and went the length of the field to ground under the sticks, outpacing the chasing Aussie tacklers. Remy Marginet added the conversion for 10-6.
Graham completed his hat-trick on thirty minutes when he was on hand to take an inside pass. Smith kicked his second goal of the night to re-establish the ten point lead.
Two minutes later, on the kick-off return, Josh Dugan scored a sensational try weaving through the French defence from thirty metres to score acrobatically by the left corner flag. Smith failed to add the extras from the touchline and the Kangaroos took a 20-6 lead into the break against a much improved France.
Two minutes after the restart Cameron Munster ran straight past an injured Olivier Arnauld who was unable to effect the tackle, allowing the debutant to score. Cameron Smith slotted the conversion over the uprights for 26-6.
On forty-eight Tyson Frizell took a pass twenty from the France line and spun out of the attempted tackles to power to the line. Smith again added the extras and now it was just a matter of how many the Aussies would win by.
Slater added the seventh Australian try on fifty-two taking a Michael Morgan inside pass to canter over from twenty without a French defensive hand on him. Smith again kicked the extras for 38-6.
A Slater 40-20 on sixty-five got the field position and on the second tackle Wade Graham picked up his fourth of the night, again spinning out of a weak tackle to drop over the line. Smiths conversion made it 44-6.
A Dugan kick through wrong-footed the French defence allowing Munster to pick up and ground the back in goal for his second of the night. Munster took over the kicking duties from the substituted Smith but missed the target.
Valentine Holmes got Australia’s tenth try when he took a looping pass to go down the right wing and dive over on the overlap. Munster again failed with the boot but it was unimportant as his side ran out as 52-6 winners.
It was a much improved French performance but they had no answer to the relentless onslaught of the Green and Gold as Australia ran in the tries for an impressive win to guarantee their quarter final place. France are now up against it as they seek to progress and will need a win over England next Weekend.
Australia: Slater (T), T. Trbojevic, Chambers, Dugan (T), Mansour, Morgan, Munster (2T), McLean, Smith (5G), Campbell-Gillard, Graham (4T), Frizell (T), McGuire. Subs: Kafusi, Woods, Klemmer, Holmes (T).
France: Kheirallah (T), Yaha, Ader, Arnauld, Bengal, Marginet (G), Fages, Baitieri, Boudebza, Bousquet, Garcia, Jullien, Rouch. Subs: Herold, Pelissier, Margalet, Navarette.
Referee: Robert Hicks.