Australia ran in 10 tries as they eased past a spirited France side 52-6 at the Canberra Stadium on Friday.
Two tries from Wade Graham put Australia ahead before Mark Kheirallah pulled one back for France. Graham completed his hat-trick on the half hour mark while a fine effort from Josh Dugan Australia 20-6 to the good at half-time.
Australia scored six unanswered tries in the second half through Cameron Munster (2), Tyson Frizell, Billy Slater, Graham and Holmes to seal an emphatic 52-6 victory over France.
Mal Meninga made five changes to his Australia side that beat England last week. Dane Gagai, Cooper Cronk, Boyd Cordner, Matt Gillett and Jake Trbojevic were replaced by Tom Trbojevic, Josh Mansour, Cameron Munster, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Felise Kaufusi.
Aurelien Cologni made six changes to his France outfit that were defeated by Lebanon last time out as Damien Cardace, William Barthau, Antoni Maria, Clement Boyer, Nabil Djalout and Lucas Albert out dropped out of the squad with Olivier Arnaud, Remy Marginet, Mickael Rouch, John Boudebza, Maxime Herold and Romain Navarrete coming in.
France started pretty well and pressed the Kangaroos going forward as well but Australia thought they went over in the sixth minute through debutant Tom Trbojevic. The try was chalked off by the video referee though for an obstruction earlier on in the play by Tyson Frizell.
Mal Meninga’s side had a third straight set on the France line and the pressure eventually told as Wade Graham burst onto a flat ball to shrug off two French defenders to score. Cameron Smith failed to convert but Australia were 4-0 after 11 minutes.
Back-rower Graham got his second in as many minutes when he stormed onto an inside pass from Billy Slater to crash over. Smith didn’t miss this time with the conversion, Australia 10-0 France.
France hit back midway through the first half though with arguably, the best try we have seen at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup yet. Mark Kheirallah picks it up on his own 10-metre line to step Billy Slater and race the length of the field to score. Remy Marginet added the extras and France only trailed 10-6.
Graham got a first half hat-trick in his first ever start for the Kangaroos as he ran a superb line to touch down. Melbourne Storm star Smith made the score 16-6 to Australia with the boot.
In the 32nd minute, Australia scored their fourth of the game. Josh Dugan showed a clean pair of heels to burst through the France defence down the left score to finish exquisitely in the corner. The conversion was off target but the host nation led 20-6.
France put some pressure on the Australia defence in the latter stages of the half but it was too late as the hooter sounded, with the Kangaroos 14 points ahead at the break.
HALF TIME: Australia 20–6 France.
It was an electric start to the second half for the Kangaroos as Cameron Munster threw a cheeky dummy to score on his debut from close range. Smith converted to put his side into a 26-6 advantage.
It wasn’t long before Australia were on the scoresheet again. Tyson Frizell, who represented Wales at the 2013 World Cup, went on a rampaging run to fend off a couple of French defenders to score. The conversion was good and Australia were 32-6 in front.
Slater equalled Bob Fulton and Jarryd Hayne’s World Cup try-scoring record when he scored his 13th try at a World Cup when he supported a sublime Michael Morgan break to stretch Australia’s lead. Smith added the additional points and the Kangaroos led 38-6 after 51 minutes.
Cronulla Sharks star Graham got his fourth just inside the final quarter, equalling a World Cup record for most tries in a game. Smith added the extras to make the score 44-6 in favour of Australia.
It was a dream debut for Munster, with the 23-year-old latching onto a grubber from Josh Dugan to score. Munster failed to convert his own try though, Australia 48-6 France.
The Kangaroos reached the half century point with a couple of minutes to spare as Valentine Holmes got the better of Fouad Yaha to dive over in the corner. Munster dragged his conversion attempt wide but it Australia ran-out 52-6 winners after putting in a classy display at the Canberra Stadium.
FULL TIME: Australia 52–6 France.
Australia – 52
Tries: Graham 4, Dugan, Munster 2, Frizell, Slater, Holmes
Goals: Smith 6/8, Munster 0/2
France – 6
Goals: Marginet 1/1
loverugbyleague.com MOM: Wade Graham (Australia)
Australia: 1. Billy Slater, 2. Tom Trbojevic, 3. Will Chambers, 4. Josh Dugan, 5. Josh Mansour, 6. Michael Morgan, 14. Cameron Munster, 8. Jordan McLean, 9. Cameron Smith (C), 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11. Wade Graham, 12. Tyson Frizell, 13. Josh McGuire.
Interchange: 15. Felise Kaufusi, 16. Aaron Woods, 17. David Klemmer, 18. Valentine Holmes.
France: 1. Mark Kheirallah, 2. Fouad Yaha, 3. Bastien Ader, 4. Olivier Arnaud, 5. Ilias Bergal, 6. Remy Marginet, 7. Theo Fages (C), 15. Mickael Rouch, 17. John Boudebza, 10. Julian Bousquet, 11. Benjamin Garcia, 12. Benjamin Jullien, 13. Jason Baitieri.
Interchange: 8. Maxime Herold, 9. Eloi Pelissier, 14. Thibault Margalet, 16. Romain Navarrete.
Referee – Robert Hicks