Fourteen-man Wallabies edge France 'C'
MATCH REPORT: It required 260 minutes, but Australia finally got the better of a depleted French team to claim their Test series 2-1.
Reduced to 14 men for all but five minutes of the match, the Wallabies edged Les Bleus 33-30 in Brisbane on Saturday.
It was a game full of drama – not just because of the red card – and action, the teams scored three tries each.
However, it was the boot of Wallaby flyhalf Noah Lolesio – with three conversions and four penalties, including 79th-minute match-winner – that gave the hosts the win and the series.
However, the Australians should taper their celebrations – as this French team was deprived of almost 30 frontline players, including all the members of the European and French champions Toulouse.
Also missing were all the members of La Rochelle, who lost to Toulouse in the European and French finals.
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The 34,164-strong Brisbane crowd were livid when in-form wing Marika Koroibete was red-carded in the fifth minute – for a head-high tackle on French captain Anthony Jelonch in Brisbane.
Referee Ben O’Keeffe and his assistants deliberated for minutes before determining Koroibete had raced in from a distance and made contact high, without any mitigating factors.
The French raced ahead 10-0, but the Wallabies were stoic, fighting back to lead, before Noah Lolesio kicked the hosts clear with 90 seconds to play.
The win was Australia’s ninth-straight win in Brisbane, dating back to 2016, and capped a tight series that had featured two-point wins to both sides in a three-match contest squeezed inside 11 days.
Australia had already lost their other wing, Filipo Daugunu, who injured his arm in a tackle inside the first 90 seconds of his Test return.
French scrumhalf Baptiste Couilloud then ran over his opposite number Tate McDermott for the game’s first try, more cries coming from the crowd – suggesting the referee overturn the score for illegal play.
McDermott had the immediate reply though, racing to link up with Hooper after Noah Lolesio had put the captain through a hole.
A Lolesio intercept try put the Wallabies ahead before a string of unforced errors allowed Cameron Woki to peg one back as the sides went to the break locked up at 20-all.
Pierre-Louis Barassi finished a 90-metre play for a terrific French try but prop Taniela Tupou’s arrival after 46 minutes paid off when he barged over.
They traded penalties after that, both teams missing one each as well, before Lolesio nailed the match-winner.
France had one last crack with a penalty on halfway, but Darcy Swain forced the turn-over after the visitors opted to kick for touch and go for the try.
Man of the match: Pierre-Louis Barassi, Baptiste Couilloud and Melvyn Jaminet were the best of the exciting French backs. Forwards Enzo Forletta and Pierre-Henri Azagoh were also very productive. Centre Len Ikitau and centre Hunter Paisami were impressive in the Aussie backline. Replacement prop Taniela Tupou and hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa were the most productive forwards in an impressive pack. Our award goes flyhalf Noah Lolesio – who managed the game well and won it for his team. He missed just one kick – landing three conversions and four penalties, including a 79th-minute match-winner.
Moment of the match: Six good tries and some accurate kicking that saw this game go to the wire. It was eventually settled when the French decided well into referee’s additional time to go for a line-out instead of kicking at poles. Darcy Swain managed to get his hands on the ball in the maul and won a turnover that ended the match – allowing the Wallabies to hold on for the win.
Villain: The red card to Marika Koroibete in the fifth minute saw Australia play with 14 men for almost the entire match.
Tries: McDermott, Lolesio, Tupou
Cons: Lolesio 3
Pens: Lolesio 4
Tries: Couilloud, Woki, Barassi
Cons: Jaminet 3
Pens: Jaminet 3
Red card: Marika Koroibete (Australia, 5 – foul play, shoulder charge against the head)
Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Rob Valetini, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Matt To’omua, 23 Reece Hodge.
France: 15 Melvyn Jaminet, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Pierre-Louis Barassi, 12 Arthur Vincent, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Antoine Hastoy, 9 Baptiste Couilloud, 8 Anthony Jelonch (captain), 7 Cameron Woki, 6 Dylan Cretin, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Cyril Cazeaux, 3 Sipili Falatea, 2 Gaetan Barlot, 1 Enzo Forletta.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Quentin Walcker, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Pierre-Henri Azagoh, 20 Alexandre Becognee, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Anthony Bouthier, 23 Julien Heriteau.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)