Philippe Saint-Andre’s team, who had conceded 95 points in three away defeats against Australia in June, were ultra focussed this time and tries by Sebastien Tillous-Bordes and Teddy Thomas as well as the boots of Camille Lopez and Rory Kockott gave them a deserved win.
Bernard Foley kicked four penalties and converted the tries of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Quade Cooper but the Wallabies came up just short despite a late fightback.
France, who finished the Six Nations in fourth place before being thrashed by Australia, nicely followed up last weekend’s 40-15 win against Fiji.
Les Bleus take on Argentina at the Stade de France next Saturday while Australia, who beat Wales 33-28 last Saturday, will face Ireland.
Australia put the French defence under pressure early on but the home side held firm and Lopez’s crossfield kick to Yoann Huget, who then set up Scott Spedding on the wing, suggested Les Bleus could be in inspired form.
They were indeed and Tillous-Borde cleverly ran around a ruck to dive over from close range as the World Cup runners-up opened the scoring.
France gave away a couple of penalties to allow the visitors to stay afloat but they defended aggressively and Thomas whizzed past six defenders to score a spectacular 35-metre try to put his team 17-6 up after Lopez added the extras.
The French though then missed a couple of tackles, allowing Ashley-Cooper to score a try on the right wing before Foley converted to help the Wallabies reduce the gap to four points.
Foley further boosted Australia with another penalty on the stroke of halftime.
However, France had a good start in the second half and Lopez scored two penalties as Australia were sanctioned for high tackles but Foley’s fourth penalty meant they were still in it despite being largely dominated.
With powerful centre Mathieu Bastareaud coming on at halftime, France forgot to play on the wings, where Huget and Thomas were suddenly deprived of good ball.
But France took the upper hand in the scrum, winning an easy penalty which Lopez converted shortly after the hour to extend the home side’s lead to seven points.
Kockott’s penalty put them 10 points ahead but Cooper’s late try put huge pressure on the home side, who however held firm with captain Thierry Dusautoir epitomising the fight.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Mark Meadows)