Arthur Mourgue scored 18 points as France warmed up for Saturday’s Rugby League World Cup clash with England with a solid 34-12 win over debutants Greece in Doncaster.
The Catalans Dragons half-back surged over for a second-half try and kicked seven goals as his side cruised to their first victory in the final stages of the competition since 2013.
But the underdogs were far from outclassed and threatened the French try line with a frequency that suggests the host nation will have plenty of opportunities when they come face to face in Bolton.
Greece’s moment to remember arrived in the 56th minute when Cronulla Sharks centre Siteni Taukamo pounced on a neat kick through French lines to score his country’s first World Cup points with Lachlan Ilias adding the extras.
And they rounded their big night off in style when centre Nicholas Mougios surged half the length of the field to grab his side’s second try with the final play of the game.
They were richly deserved moments from a team who faced a tough task against a side with a majority of French-based Super League players, but showed encouraging signs as they moved the ball with confidence in the early stages.
France, shocked by Lebanon in their World Cup opener in 2017, took 10 minutes to make any sort of impression, Jordan Dezaria squeezing through a gap in the Greek defence with Mourgue making the first of many additions with his boot.
Greece responded with a sustained burst of pressure following Taukamo’s burst from behind his own try line to half-way, but they failed to capitalise and France edged further in front through a Mourgue penalty.
Greek inexperience told again when France extended their lead shortly afterwards, Mourgue’s kick behind causing panic and Tony Gigot sneaked in to touch down as two Greek players fumbled their attempt to shepherd the ball out to touch.
Benjamin Jullien added a third converted try to put France 20-0 up at the break, then Mourgue crossed himself when he was sent over the line by a neat lay-off from Mickael Goudemand early in the second half.
Taukamo’s big moment drew a rousing cheer from the Doncaster crowd, and they had further chances before Mourgue continued his one-man show with a penalty in front of the posts.
Jullien grabbed his second try of the night in the 75th minute and Mourgue duly obliged once again with the boot before the stage was set for Mougios to finish in style.