Wallabies edge Les Bleus in Brisbane thriller
MATCH REPORT: Noah Lolesio slotted penalty three minutes into referee’s additional time to secure a thrilling 23-21 win for Australia over France in the first of three Tests.
The teams scored two tries each in the Brisbane arm-wrestle on Wednesday, a rare mid-week Test, but it was Lolesio – who had a drop-goal attempt charged down just moments earlier – that remained calm and slotted the match-winner.
France lead for almost the entire 80 minutes, following a quick one-two by French wing Gabin Villiere in the first quarter.
However, the Wallabies grabbed the lead when it matters most.
The two teams will meet again on Tuesday, July 13, in Melbourne and next Saturday, July 17, in Brisbane.
* Did you miss the action? To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!
It was a remarkable come-from-behind win in front of a crazed crowd of 17,821 in Brisbane.
All seemed lost for Australia with the final siren sounding – as France took possession of a line-out, but the ball spilt out and the Wallabies pounced to set up a dramatic finish.
It was a nervy opening with both sides throwing the ball around, before France earned good field position and won a scrum against the feed. A quick recycle caused a panicked Wallabies defence and allowed Gabin Villiere to step through the Australian defence untouched.
Villiere had a second try after 23 minutes, following a scintillating set-piece move by France as they carved open the Wallabies defence with ease to open a 15-0 lead.
Australia finally worked their way into the contest and was rewarded following a sustained period of pressure, as Brandon Paenga-Amosa barged over off the back of a powerful rolling maul to close the margin to eight points at the break.
A sharper start to the second half for the Wallabies as the home side clicked straight into gear before Noah Lolesio reduced the deficit to five points thanks to an easy penalty.
France hit straight back through the boot of Louis Carbonel, before the Wallabies butchered a certain try when Tom Wright failed to ground the ball in an open in-goal.
The penalty tit-for-tat continued with Australia taking the three points, before France swiftly responded to establish a 21-13 lead.
The Wallabies soon earned the ascendency and captain Michael Hooper capitalised with a smart skipper’s try in the 70th minute to reduce the margin to just one point.
A nervy Wallabies side spilt a number of golden-edge chances to edge ahead, before France set up a grandstand finish in front of a noisy cauldron in Brisbane.
The game seemed destined for a French victory, before the visitors overplayed their hand in kicking the ball out of play, and Australia grabbed their chance.
Man of the match: The French backs that stood out included scrumhalf Baptiste Couilloud, flying wing Gabin Villiere with his two tries and powerful centre Jonathan Danty, who even won penalties at the breakdown. Forwards like Killian Geraci, Jean-Baptiste Gros and captain Anthony Jelonch also put in big shifts. Australians who impressed included Allan Alaalatoa, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Matt Philip and captain Michael Hooper. Powerful wing Marika Koroibete had an impressive second half and centre Hunter Paisami impressed throughout – not just when carrying the ball with brute force, but also showed some subtle touches. However, you can’t look past the match-winning performance of rookie Wallaby flyhalf Noah Lolesio. While it was not a flawless performance, he showed a glimpse of the bright future the Wallabies have in the No.10 channel and he scored the match winner.
Moment of the match: Centre Jonathan Danty thought he had won the match for his team with a tackle and then winning a penalty. However, from the subsequent line-out the French had a proper brain fade and gifted possession the Wallabies – which ultimately resulted in the penalty that Noah Lolesio slotted to win the match in the 83rd minute.
Villain: The French team for their inability to do the basics right when they had the game won – catch the ball in a line-out, present it to the scrumhalf so he can kick it dead and win the match. It was the ultimate brain fade that cost the visitors.
Tries: Paenga-Amosa, Hooper
Cons: Lolesio 2
Pens: Lolesio 2
Tries: Villiere 2
Pens: Carbonel 2, Jaminet
Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Matt To’omua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Isi Naisarani, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Len Ikitau, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
France: 15 Melvyn Jaminet, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Arthur Vincent, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Louis Carbonel, 9 Baptiste Couilloud, 8 Sekou Macalou, 7 Anthony Jelonch (captain), 6 Dylan Cretin, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Killian Geraci, 3 Demba Bamba, 2 Gaetan Barlot, 1 Jean-Baptiste Gros.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Quentin Walcker, 18 Sipili Falatea, 19 Florent Vanverberghe, 20 Baptiste Pesenti, 21 Cameron Woki, 22 Teddy Iribaren, 23 Anthony Bouthier.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: James Doleman (New Zealand)