Lockyer stars in Lucky Escape
Monday November 22, 2004

The corageous efforts of the French Rugby League team overshadowed Darren Lockyer's successful return from injury this morning as the European underdogs gave the southern heavyweights a big scare ahead of next weekend's Tri-Nations decider.

Lockyer proved to be the difference between the two sides as he eventually guided the Australian's to a 52-30 victory.

Make no mistake, that scoreline flatters the visitors who were kept on the back-foot for the majority of the match at Stade Ernest Wallon.

The French stunned the world champions in the opening stages of the match with three tries to Adel Fellous, Jamal Fakir and Maxime Greseque scoring tries. Jason Ryles collected a four-pointer of his own, but midway through the first half the home team had an unbelievable 16-6 lead.

Lockyer then took control of the match, as Matt Cooper and Craig Fitzgibbon scored to level the scores with time still remaining before half-time.

Lockyer then ignited his club combination with out-of-favour centre Brent Tate, who crossed for two tries in the final minutes of the half to give Australia a very handy 12-point lead.

The French got within a converted try in the early minutes of the second half, after a mix-up between Bowen and Cooper gave them a gift 6 points.

Broncos lock Tonie Carroll notched a reply almost immediately after the kick-off restart to take the score the 34-20, but the French didn't lie down. Instead, they crossed for another try to narrow the gap to just 10 points and set up a close finale.

Australia pulled away in the dying stages of the match, notching three tries to put the scoreline beyond all doubt.

Everyone in the Australian camp would have been thrilled to have such a tough hit-out against France, with the Tri-Nations decider against an in-form Lions team less than a week away.

The injuries in the Australian camp are now minimal, and it is almost certain that Lockyer will play in the number 6 jersey next weekend when Australia will play to avoid being the first Kangaroos to lose a series or tournament since 1978.

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