Wallaroos make history with victory over France in WXV1

Sat, Oct 28, 2023, 5:45 AM
Lachlan Grey
by Lachlan Grey
Wallaroos prop Eva Karpani is swamped after scoring the opening try against France during their WXV1 clash in Dunedin. Picture: Getty
Wallaroos prop Eva Karpani is swamped after scoring the opening try against France during their WXV1 clash in Dunedin. Picture: Getty

FULL TIME: The Wallaroos have secured a historic 29-20 victory over France in their WXV1 clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium, their first in tournament history.

Hat-trick hero Eva Karpani anchored the nine point win with outside centre Georgie Friedrichs and forward duo Emily Chancellor and Sera Naiqama also starring under the roof in Dunedin.

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It was an incredible performance - easily Australia's best under coach Jay Tregonning - and began in blistering fashion with Friedrichs and Karpani combining for a third-minute stunner.

The outside centre had two key touches in the build-up to Karpani’s try, hitting a brilliant line from Arabella McKenzie for the initial break into France's 22 before backing up to receive an offload from halfback Layne Morgan and feed Karpani under the sticks.

Australia continued to dominate the opening exchanges but the French weren't to be denied, counterattacking brilliantly in the 14th minute from a loose clearance to equalise through Emilie Boulard down the left touchline.

Boulard and Marine Menager threatened to break the game open for France with successive line-breaks, only for scrambling defence from Emily Chancellor and Friedrichs to turn the tide.

Chancellor's try-saving tackle on French number eight Charlotte Escudero and subsequent turnover from the goal-line dropout gave Australia a sniff in the 22nd minute and it wasn't long before Friedrichs re-entered the fray, busting through to link again with Chancellor deep into French territory.

The Wallaroos built pressure through nine patient phases before Friedrichs pulled the trigger, leaving Alexandra Chambon for dead with a left-foot step and dotting down Australia's second try.

France handed Australia the ultimate compliment 10 minutes later, opting for a penalty goal after failing to crack the gold wall with Morgane Bouregios' successful penalty setting up a 12-10 halftime score.

But the Wallaroos gave Les Bleus no such courtesy after oranges.

Chancellor broke the game open early before a terrier-like Morgan wrestled the ball back from a French scrum feed to hand Australia a golden opportunity after 47 minutes.

It didn't go to waste with the Wallaroos building 21 clinical phases up the guts to set up camp on France's tryline, Karpani eventually storming over on the 22nd phase with McKenzie's conversion pushing their lead to 22-10.

Les Bleus roared back to life from the ensuing kick-off, twice busting the line through Coco Lindelauf and Manae Feleu, but there was no give in the gold wall as Karpani and Naiqama held up wave after wave over their try-line.

Three breakdown steals in three minutes (two to Chancellor, one to Morgan) saw the Wallaroos march back upfield and when reserve prop Bree-Anna Cheatham forced back-to-back scrum penalties, Australia found themselves back on the offensive with a 5m lineout maul.

Who better, then, to find the chalk than Eva Karpani with the prop rolling over for her third meat pie and a 19-point lead following McKenzie's extras.

Two late consolation tries to Elisa Riffonneau and Gabrielle Vernier handed France some late joy but it was always Australia's night, the Wallaroos eventually running out victors.

It's their first win over France in over a decade, keeping their slim hopes of a WXV title alive.

Wallaroos team to play France at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin on Saturday 28 October, 5:00pm AEDT

Starters

1.  Brianna Hoy – 1 cap

2.  Tania Naden – 7 caps

3.  Eva Karpani – 19 caps

4.  Sera Naiqama – 11 caps

5.  Michaela Leonard (c) – 19 caps

6.  Siokapesi Palu – 4 caps

7.  Emily Chancellor – 21 caps

8.  Kaitlan Leaney – 13 caps

9.  Layne Morgan – 17 caps

10.  Carys Dallinger – 4 caps

11.  Ivania Wong – 13 caps

12.  Arabella McKenzie – 19 caps

13.  Georgina Friedrichs – 17 caps

14.  Desiree Miller – 1 cap

15.  Faitala Moleka – 4 caps

Finishers

16.  Adiana Talakai – 14 caps

17.  Bree-Anna Cheatham – 7 caps

18.  Emily Robinson – 23 caps

19.  Atasi Lafai – 7 caps

20.  Leilani Nathan - 1 cap

21.  Sarah Dougherty – 1 cap

22.  Cecilia Smith – 10 caps

23.  Melanie Wilks - uncapped

BUILDCORP WALLAROOS WXV1 FIXTURES

Wallaroos 7 def by v England 42 on Friday 20 October, Sky Stadium, Wellington

Wallaroos v France, 5:00pm (AEDT), Saturday 28 October, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Wallaroos v Wales, 5:00pm (AEDT), Friday 3 November, Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

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