Australia rout ragged France
Paris - Australia ended their European tour in ruthless style by inflicting a record 59-16 defeat on Six Nations Grand Slam champions France at a chilly Stade de France here on Saturday.
Wing James O'Connor was the star of the show as he claimed 29 points to send the Wallabies into World Cup year in style, while Adam Ashley-Cooper was a constant threat and Drew Mitchell claimed a hat-trick of tries.
France were level at half-time, but back-to-back tries early in the second half by Benn Robinson and Will Genia gave Australia a lead they would not relinquish and a demoralised France were soon on the end of a hiding.
"I'm proud of the effort and proud of the boys," said Australia coach Robbie Deans, who had seen his side beaten 35-18 by England in their only defeat of the tour a fortnight ago.
"It's a great way to finish the tour. There were elements that came together tonight that we've been working hard on and waiting on."
It was a record win over France for Deans' men, eclipsing their 40-10 success from 2008.
The result left France's captain Thierry Dusautoir in a state of shock.
"We were completely outplayed in the second half, we were non-existent," said the Toulouse star.
"We became disjointed, left them a lot of space. We completely lost the plot. We failed completely, we just weren't there, full stop.
"I really don't know what to say. Reconstruct? It's a bit early for that but we will have to consult and act on that."
The game had barely settled when Australia broke the deadlock in the fourth minute.
O'Connor gathered the ball from the end of a line-out and broke through midfield before offloading to Ashley-Cooper, who cantered in between the posts.
O'Connor duly converted to put the visitors 7-0 up but France quickly hit back through a Morgan Parra penalty in the seventh minute.
Australia were quick to restore their seven-point lead, however, with O'Connor sinking his second penalty shortly afterwards to give the Wallabies a 10-3 advantage after less than 10 minutes.
Parra was unfortunate to see a long-range penalty attempt come back off the left-hand post but he was less forgiving with another kick moments later as he drew the home side to within four points of their opponents.
The Clermont man's work was soon undone, however, as another French infringement at the breakdown presented O'Connor with a simple penalty that he kicked to put the Aussies 13-6 in front.
Staunch defence from Australia then kept France at bay with the try-line under their noses, but the visitors' occasionally fragile pack eventually buckled.
A series of scrums beneath the Australian posts led to the award of a penalty try for France and a yellow card for Ben Alexander, with Parra sinking the conversion to level the scores.
The sides went in level at 13-13 at half-time but France drew first blood in the second period when Parra kicked a penalty from a few metres inside the Australian half to nudge his side ahead for the first time in the match.
Once again the Australian response was immediate and this time it was decisive, as two quick-fire scores turned France's 16-13 lead into a 27-16 deficit in the space of just four minutes.
For the first try, Australia quickly switched the play to the right and when Ashley-Cooper's progress was halted a metre from the line, Robinson stooped to pick up the ball and crash over the line.
O'Connor converted and with France reeling Ashley-Cooper pounced again, selling an intelligent dummy to break into space behind the French backs and then teeing up Genia to plunge over.
Another O'Connor conversion made it 27-16 and when the Australian number 14 then claimed another penalty, the Wallabies were out of sight.
Mitchell scampered down the left wing to claim his first try in the 66th minute, with O'Connor converting, and after O'Connor had put another three points on the scoreboard, Mitchell went over in identical fashion.
Another O'Connor conversion gave Australia a 47-16 lead and, with jeers echoing around the stadium, Mitchell claimed his third try before O'Connor capped a triumphant night with the final score.