Source: Hagen Hopkins Getty Images/World Rugby

Europe 0 Australasia 2

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France v Australia, New Zealand v Wales

The Wallaroos produced the shock of the tournament by outplaying France from start to finish. The two tries they scored in the first 20 minutes were a pointer to their form. Though Les Bleues showed more than mere flashes of brilliance, they were far too error-prone, losing line-outs and failing to secure breakdown possession.

In the earlier game Wales were shown the distance they still have to travel, as the Black Ferns tore them to pieces. Seventy points was a real mauling.

France v Australia

Source: Joe Allison/Getty Images

The game confirmed what a threat Australia could be if the board allowed them more support; they claim they don’t have the dollars, but neither the Sevens squad nor the Wallabies are given the same excuse.

It took the Wallaroos only two minutes to get on the board. Lovely combined play took them to the line, and Eva Karpani, who went on to have an outstanding game, thumped over the line. France countered with a half-break by Madoussou Fall, but were pinged for holding on, Emily Chancellor doing a No 7’s job over the ball.

France now returned to type. Faitala Moleka’s clearance kick looked sound, but Morgane Bourgeois fielded it and started a deadly counter. She took the ball up, off-loaded to Marine Ménager who advanced, dummied bravely, so when she gave to Boulard, the winger had a clear run in to the posts for her thirteenth try. Bourgeois converted. 7-7

Towards the 20 minute mark France really got rolling. The ball was held up over the line; Wallaroo defences were working overtime, Chancellor and Karpani prominent again.

Twice France lost possession when the tackled player wasn’t supported fast enough. They paid the penalty. Australia mounted a ten-phase attack that brought them close to the line. Georgia Friedrichs wrong-footed the defence to cross easily. That was two tries in 20 minutes. 7-12

On the half-hour Alex Chambon played the No 9’s trick, sending the ball into an opponent who was retreating late. The penalty took France to the 5 metre line, but another line-out went astray.

Were they suffering the after-effects of that previous game? It does happen in sport, and they were wearing white. For some reason that I can hardly explain many international teams don’t enjoy wearing that colour.

France did regain possession and started to fire, off-loads aplenty. But under the posts Fall was robbed by Tania Naden. So near and yet…

On 34 minutes France won a holding-on decision and Bourgeois went for goal. 10-12. That is one youngster who really has impressed.

H-T 10-12

Australia had been in the French 22 for only a moment or two; they scored two tries. The French had suffered too many turnovers, so the main message must have been ‘tidy up!’

It didn’t happen. Though they pressed into Aussie territory and won two promising penalties, two more line-outs and resulting mauls failed to profit them. These errors were to prove very costly.

At this moment the coaches swopped the two loose-head props. The result was a wonky scrum and the Wallaroos regained possession through Layne Morgan. From there the game switched to desperate French defence, the Wallaroos going through phase after phase just short of the line. Finally Karpani was over for her second. France’s deficit was now nine points.

Both Pauline Bourdon and Gabrielle Vernier came on in the 53rd minute. With the wisdom of hindsight we may ask why neither of them started. Nearly all the head coaches, when announcing the names of the eighteen WXV squads, used the time-worn phrase ‘a nice blend of youth and experience’. The French didn’t. Though there were distinguished names on the list, youth was brought to the fore. Against New Zealand they worked wonders; not against Australia. But then, Ortiz and Mignot’s eyes are fixed firmly on the next World Cup. Was it worth taking the risk of underperforming against today’s rank outsiders for that distant goal? Will a final performance against Canada make up for this disturbing loss?

Arabella McKenzie widened the gap to 22-10 with a penalty for a high tackle, and despite two late tries by Élisa Riffonneau and Vernier, neither converted, the leeway remained too great. Karpani had time to claim a hat-trick, greeted with joy by her mates.

This was a major setback for France. It was noticeable that Gaëlle Hermet did all the serious talking during the breaks in play. But captaincy, like coaching, is a topic for another day.

Bourdon had an immediate effect once she was allowed on, but she couldn’t turn the tide. There were still delightful passages of play from them, but the errors abounded. They were even over the line, but Aimee Barrett-Theron was in prime position to decide ‘held up’ – another big plus for the Aussies.

As the whistle blew it was joy unconfined for them.

Final score: France 20 Australia 29


1 Brianna Hoy (NSW Waratahs), 2 Tania Naden (ACT Brumbies), 3 Eva Karpani (NSW Waratahs), 4 Sera Naiqama (NSW Waratahs), 5 Michaela Leonard (captain, Western Force), 6 Siokapesi Palu (ACT Brumbies) 7 Emily Chancellor (Harlequins), 8 Kaitlan Leaney (Harlequins), 9 Layne Morgan (NSW Waratahs), 10 Carys Dallinger (Queensland Reds), 11 Ivania Wong (Queensland Reds), 12 Arabella McKenzie (Harlequins), 13 Georgina Friedrichs (NSW Waratahs), 14 Desiree Miller (NSW Waratahs), 15 Faitala Moleka (ACT Brumbies)

Bench: 16 Adiana Talakai (NSW Waratahs), 17 Bree-Anna Cheatham (Queensland Reds), 18 Emily Robinson (NSW Waratahs), 19 Atasi Lafai (NSW Waratahs), 20 Ashley Marsters (Melbourne Rebels), 21 Sarah Dougherty), 22 Cecilia Smith (Queensland Reds) 23 *Melanie Wilks

15 Morgane Bourgeois (Stade Bordelais), 14 *Suliana Sivi (Stade Rennais), 13 Marine Ménager (Montpellier HR), 12 Nassira Kondé (Stade Bordelais), 11 Émilie Boulard (Blagnac), 10 Lina Queyroi (Blagnac), 9 Alexandra Chambon (Grenoble Amazones), 1 Ambre Mwayembe (Grenoble Amazones), 2 Elisa Riffonneau (Trailfinders Women), 3 Clara Joyeux (Blagnac), 4 Manae Feleu (captain, Grenoble Amazones), 5 Madoussou Fall (Stade Bordelais), 6 Léa Champon, 7 Gaëlle Hermet (Stade Toulousain), 8 Charlotte Escudero (Stade Toulousain)

Bench: 16 Laure Touyé (Montpellier HR), 17 Coco Lindelauf (Blagnac), 18 Assia Khalfaoui (Stade Bordelais), 19 Kiara Zago (Stade Toulousain), 20 Emeline Gros (Grenoble Amazones), 21 Pauline Bourdon-Sansus (Stade Toulousain), 22 Clara Arbez (Stade Bordelais), 23 Gabrielle Vernier (Blagnac)

Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron (SARU)

New Zealand v Wales

The game turned out as all Kiwi supporters hoped and self-appointed experts predicted it would. Wales were swamped.

Ruby Tui reinforced her place as the darling of the nation by scoring four tries in thirteen minutes. She could safely be removed after an hour’s jaunt to save her energies for beating England (single-handed?). The rest of her side added eight more to the feast. Wales have still to register a win after seven attempts. At least Abbie Fleming scored a second-half try to avoid a blackwash.

So the result of the previous week’s game in Wellington had reverse effects on the two sides. The Black Ferns returned to type, the French couldn’t stop making unforced errors.

It all adds to the drama of yet another encounter between the top two sides next week. Some people might wish for a change of cast after all these years, but as things now stand, yet another Black v White final looks all too probable in two years’ time.

Result: New Zealand 70 Wales 7

The WXV1 table shows England as the only remaining unbeaten side of the six. Will that remain the case after next week’s showdown? New Zealand will need a full five points to finish champions, while denying England any.