The magnificent boot of Melvyn Jaminet has been enough for France to seal their first win on Australian soil since 1990 and level the three-Test series at one win apiece.
The French fullback nailed seven penalty goals – including the winner in the 78th minute – to power his side to a much-needed victory that, despite trailing late, they probably deserved.
The seven penalties were a record for France against Australia and, combined with his successful conversion, gave the number 15 a whopping 23 points on the night.
The Wallabies had one last crack to steal the win when they got the ball back from the kick-off, but gave away a late penalty and France, this time, managed to close the game out successfully.
Noah Lolesio’s penalty goal briefly erased a three-point deficit for the Wallabies early in the second half, but it was all France for the the next 20 minutes.
Australia had to defend grimly against a serious assault on their try-line but, while they’d be pleased they kept the French at bay, repeated offside penalties meant they were never a chance of getting possession themselves – allowing Jaminet to kick his fourth and fifth penalty goals and put the visitors back up by six.
It was deja vu a few minutes later, with another sustained French attack putting enormous pressure on the Wallabies defence. Again, the home side held firm but, again, Jaminet was able to dob the penalty kick and give France an imposing nine-point lead.
When they had the ball, the Wallabies simply couldn’t make a dent in the imperious French defence and weren’t helping themselves with handling errors and lost lineouts.
Despite having the lion’s share of the ball, it looked as if the home side were destined to toil away for no result.
But they got the circuit-breaker.
A superb break up the middle from Tom Banks, followed by an excellent offload to Andrew Kellaway, saw Michael Hooper receive the final pass in the chain and the skipper fought off his opponent to score and bring his side back into the contest.
Lolesio nailed his second difficult conversion of the evening to get the Wallabies back within two, before slotting a tricky penalty goal a few minutes later to give the Wallabies the lead.
But that wasn’t the final twist. A dominant French scrum just moments later saw the visitors awarded a penalty, which Jaminet converted to restore his side’s advantage.
The first half saw the Wallabies squander several opportunities to score tries and, at one point, it looked like France would get away from them before the break.
A knock-on from Hunter Paisami – who didn’t pass to a free man outside beforehand – was the first of the lost chances, but there’d be plenty more before the half was out.
A superb solo run from Marika Koroibete looked to have put the Wallabies on the board properly, but the TMO called that one back after uncovering a slight knock-on from Tom Wright on the previous phase.
Then it was Koroibete’s turn to let a chance slip after he got his wires crossed with Tom Banks and wasn’t ready for a pass, before Matt To’omua tried to find Koroibete with a long pass that was found to be well forward.
All the while, Jaminet had kicked two penalty goals to Noah Lolesio’s one to put the visitors up 6-3, before Damian Penaud’s try got the French well on top.
Australia had been guilty of chasing an errant ball from France too deep, which allowed Penaud to storm up the unguarded left wing and score an important try.
Traded penalty goals from there ticked the scoreboard to 16-6 in France’s favour and they looked set to enjoy a healthy half time lead, before Taniela Tupou briefly put on his scrumhalf cape, throwing a stunning cut-out pass to Jake Gordon on the wing, who crossed for an even more important try close to the break.
Wallabies – 26
France – 28
Wallabies: Jake Gordon 38′, Michael Hooper 71′
France: Damian Penaud 22′
Wallabies: Noah Lolesio 3/3 (39′, 72′, 75′)
France: Melvyn Jaminet 1/1 (22′)
Wallabies: Noah Lolesio 3/3 (17′, 26′, 46′)
France: Melvyn Jaminet 7/7 (2′, 10′, 34′, 51′, 56′, 63′, 78′)