The Wallabies, playing with a man short for 75 minutes after a controversial red card, produced one of their most courageous Test victories, as Noah Lolesio kicked a penalty with three minutes on the clock to secure a 33-30 win and 2-1 series success against France.
The teams could barely be split in the opening two matches, with the Wallabies winning the first by two points, when Lolesio also iced a win with a late penalty, and France the second in Melbourne by the same margin.
France were given a massive boost inside five minutes when Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete was sent off for a high challenge on Anthony Jelonch and it left the Wallabies with what seemed an impossible task.
The red card angered fans and players, with many arguing Jelonch had lowered his body as Korobiete – Australia’s best in the second Test arrived to crash him into the turf. The Frenchman appeared to exaggerate the imapct, angering a 37,000 crowd at Suncorp Stadium.
But a young Australian team, whose four players from No.9-12 had just 17 Tests between them, didn’t let the incident derail them and delivered a stirring, never say die, effort.
“That wasn’t about rugby. It wasn’t about tactics or technique,” said former Wallaby Morgan Turinui on the Stan Sports coverage. “It was about hearts beating in that Wallaby team underneath that emblem, the Australian coat of arms. They wanted it a little more than a brave, brilliant French team.”
Koroibete’s dismissal meant Australia were without their starting wingers withing five minutes of the kickoff after Filipo Daugunu suffered a wrist injury in the opening play of the game.
France took almost instant advantage of the extra player with scrum half Baptiste Couilloud crossing but Tate McDermott, making his starting debut in place of Jake Gordon thrilled his home crowd by grabbing a try back before his halves partner Lolesio, one of the Wallabies finds of the series, put the hosts into the lead with a second Wallabies try.
France crossed for a second through Cameron Woki four minutes before halftime but Lolesio’s penalty on the stroke of halftime left scores locked 20-all at the break.
France drew first blood seven minutes into the second half when Pierre-Louis Barassi finished off a length of the field epic.
“It’s an iconic French try,” said All Blacks legend Andrew Mehrtens on Stan Sport. “They were clinical, they were precise, they were dynamic.”
“It’s another try from the end of world from France,” added Turinui. “Tactically so smart.”
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie introduced Taniel Tupou, and his prop delivered immediately. After sustained pressure on the French line, Tupou burrowed over like a wombat through French resistance.
“The French put three men into that tackle on Tupou,” said Turinui. “Gentlemen that’s not enough!”
After the game Tupou gave one of his four-year-old boots to a kid in the stands and made a public plea for Adidas or Asics to “hit a brother up” with a boot sponsorship.
Both teams had penalty kicks at 27-all and Melvyn Jaminet and Lolesio showed nerves in fading their shots wide.
With 66 minutes gone Brandon Paenga-Amosa thought he’d crossed beside the posts, but the French complained about a knock on by Hunter Paisami in the lead up and it was confirmed by TMO.
Yet still Australia kept coming, with Lolesio banging over a penalty from 42 metres before a moment of poor discipline gave Jaminet another chance to level at 30-all into the final five minutes.
After Lolesio’s decisive kick, France had one more chance to hit level. But they decided against trying for goal from wide out near the right hand touchline and just inside the Wallabies half, and Darcy Swain, another youngster came up with a huge play after an ensuing lineout to secure the win.
“It’s a bloody good feeling hey?” said Swain. “It was everyone doing their job. Marika was really unlucky there. He’s full of intent. But it came down to everyone from 1-23 doing the job. The finishers had a huge impact.”