Wade Graham stars as Australia's left edge fires to set up a comfortable World Cup victory against a gallant France outfit at Canberra Stadium on Friday night.
Scoreline not reflective of contest
Australia did enough to justify the 52-6 scoreline but France offered Mal Meninga's men much more than an easy hit out, as many predicted.
The Kangaroos piled on five tries before and after half-time to put the game beyond doubt following a strong opening by the French early, and went on with the result at the backend of the contest.
With 55 per cent possession for the night, the defensive efforts of the Australians will please Meninga most with just 13 tackles missed for the night, while France completed at nearly 90 per cent for the evening and should take confidence heading into their clash with England next week.
"I thought the French team were outstanding tonight," Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith said post-game.
"Their attitude and aggression, they took it to us for the full 80 minutes."
Graham shatters try-scoring record
Wade Graham's first half treble broke a 17-year drought, with the back-rower's three tries the first for an Australian forward since Bryan Fletcher in 2000.
The 27-year-old left the paddock shortly after the hat-trick heroics but returned in the second half to score a fourth – joining Gordon Tallis in the record books – and becoming the fifth Australian player to score four tries in a World Cup.
"That's something I've never dreamed of," Graham said after the match.
"I'm obviously stoked with how the team went and to get across the try line is a bonus."
Graham relished the opportunity to start, with regular back-rowers Matt Gillett and Boyd Cordner rested for the contest, and has given coach Mal Meninga food for thought as the Kangaroos progress in the tournament.
Any talk of moving Graham into Jake Trbojevic's vacant lock position could be squashed however, with teammate Josh McGuire churning out 70 minutes in the big win.
"We're a work in progress still and trying to improve each game," Graham said.
"There are still a few more areas we can fix up and will look into that later in the week."
Kangaroos' left edge fires
Eight of Australia's 10 tries came down the left channel with Graham, Josh Dugan and Cameron Munster striking up a strong combination in the win – an ominous sign for opposing teams moving forward.
Cameron Munster made the most of James Maloney's late withdrawal to make up for a rusty performance in the lead-up to the tournament with a double, while Dugan proved no match for opposing centre Olivier Arnaud throughout the night.
France's Kheirallah steals show
The scoreline blew out for the French but fullback Mark Kheirallah had a night out to remember, earning high praise after a first half performance including the side's only four-pointer that lit up Canberra Stadium.
A former Sydney Rooster, Kheirallah moved to France in 2012 and qualified for the national side under residency rules.
"I didn't really think too much, just put my head down and aim for the posts," Kheirallah said post-game about the long-range try.
"I don't think I'll ever get a match quite like it, they're world class. I thought we went with them in the first half and then they came with it in the end.
"The pressure just kept building and we cracked in the end."
France's finals task grows tougher, Aussies advance
Three of four teams in Group A will advance to the quarter-finals but France's defeat to Lebanon last week, and their heavy loss to the Kangaroos, now paints a daunting task ahead.
The equation for France is now set, with a victory against England required next week for any hope of reaching the quarter-final stages.
Australia's comfortable victory ensures they'll move into the final eight regardless of the result in next week's clash against Lebanon in Sydney.
Australia 52 (Wade Graham 4, Cameron Munster 2, Josh Dugan, Tyson Frizell, Billy Slater, Valentine Holmes tries; Cameron Smith 6 goals) def. France 6 (Mark Kheirallah try; Remy Marginet goal) at Canberra Stadium. Crowd: 12,293
First published on NRL.com