The Wallabies had the game well in hand early in the second half after quick-fire tries from Nathan Sharpe and Rocky Elsom, yet still held firm in the face of several France raids until rookie Alexis Palisson darted through for a late consolation try.
"The defensive effort was something that the boys can be pretty proud of to be honest," Deans said after the match.
"They took a lot of pressure and they hung tough and they hung together when it would have been easy to just let one (try) in.
"Sure, we let one in late but for the greater part they really showed a lot of pride in our line and that'll serve us well."
In his second match in charge, Deans also saw improvement in his side's execution with the ball in hand.
"We sustained our attack for longer, we were a little bit inaccurate around our ball work and hence relieved a lot of pressure in the first half in particular and even in the second half (there were) incidents of the dropsies," said Deans.
"But we showed a bit more patience in the second half, built some pressure and were able to get in behind (the France defence) and then profit from that."
Les Bleus coach Marc Lievremont admitted the scoreline was difficult to accept but praised his players' commitment to the cause.
"They worked very hard," Lievremont said of his inexperienced line-up.
"To see some young players like Palisson and also to see Imanol Harinordoquy who tried very hard all game was good. Also some of our older players tried very hard as well.
"In the first half we didn't have any ball and when we did get it we gave it away so we were in trouble straight away."
Asked what his players must do differently to reverse the result in the second and final Test next weekend, Lievremont said: "The first thing that must happen is the recuperation and unfortunately there's only one week so that's three days gone.
"They showed tonight they need to be playing together and in the team for next Saturday there will not be too many changes."
French pair Pepito Elhorga and Lionel Faure have been ruled out of the second Test in Brisbane next weekend because of injury.
Full-back Elhorga dislocated his shoulder midway through the first half after being tackled by Rocky Elsom and James Horwill.
Prop Lionel Faure has sprained ligaments in his knee.
France coach Marc Lievremont is not expected to call up any replacements for the injured pair.
For the Wallabies, wing Lote Tuqiri (knee) and number eight Wycliff Palu (shoulder) will be assessed on Sunday after failing to complete the match.