Australia went a step closer to securing an unbeaten end-of-year tour as they got the better of France 25-23 at the Stade de France.
A penalty try and crossings from Bernard Foley and Tevita Kuridrani saw them end with the win, with Foley kicking 10 points on Saturday.
In reply, France’s try-scorers were Virimi Vakatawa, Jean-Marc Doussain and Wesley Fofana, but they came up short in front of their fans.
Australia will now look to recover before facing an in-form Ireland and then England in back-to-back weeks for a difficult end to the year.
France will think they could have won this game and a wayward late drop-goal attempt made it even more painful for the locals watching.
It took them just six minutes to open their account when Maxime Machenaud kicked a penalty, and when in-form wing Vakatawa crossed 11 minutes later les Bleus were 0-8 to the good. That was Vakatawa’s fourth try in two internationals after his hat-trick against Samoa.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as a Foley penalty and then a penalty try following a pulled down driving maul saw Australia move 10-8 in front in the blink of an eye. Referee Glen Jackson also handed out a yellow card to flanker Charles Ollivon for the blatant offence.
Foley was on target again on 37 minutes to extend their lead to five points which, after a slow start, would have pleased Michael Cheika. France though had other ideas and a scrum penalty, converted by Machenaud in the 40th minute, meant the score was 11-13 at the break.
The contest therefore was set up to go all the way in Paris when the two nations emerged for the second-half, with the Wallabies starting the brighter. They snubbed a kickable penalty and were duly rewarded when Foley hit a short line from seven metres out to make it 20-11.
Australia almost moved further in front on 50 minutes when Luke Morahan’s offload following a line bust almost found Sefanaia Naivalu but for great scrambling defence. France were now skating on thin ice and one felt that another Wallaby try would mean curtains for them.
France did respond with a try out of nothing through Doussain but when Kuridrani finished brilliantly on the right wing Australia led 25-16.
The game was not over there as France sensed blood when on 66 minutes Fofana would dive over for a converted try that set up a grandstand finish before Lopez sat back in the pocket to agonisingly watch his kick go wide.
Tries: Vakatawa, Doussain, Fofana
Pens: Machenaud 2
Yellow Card: Ollivon (25 min)
Tries: Penalty Try, Foley, Kuridrani
Cons: Foley 2
Pens: Foley 2
France: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Rémi Lamerat, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Jean-Marc Doussain, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kévin Gourdon, 6 Charles Ollivon, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sébastian Vahaamahina, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Guilhelm Guirado (c), 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Julien Le Devedec, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Gaël Fickou
Australia: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Sefanaia Naivalu, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Tom Robertson, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Jonno Lance, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)