BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Australia played with 14 men for most of the match but sensationally overcame France with a late penalty goal for a 33-30 win to clinch the three-match test series on Saturday.
With less than two minutes remaining in the series decider, flyhalf Noah Lolesio slotted the crucial three points to give Australia the win. Lolesio accounted for 23 of the Wallabies’ points with a try, three conversions and four penalty goals.
The Wallabies had played almost the entire match with just 14 players after winger Marika Koroibete was handed a contentious red card for a high tackle five minutes into the match.
Koroibete was red-carded for his tackle on French captain Anthony Jelonch. New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe and his assistants deliberated for several minutes before determining Koroibete had raced in from a distance and contacted him high without any mitigating factors.
The French raced ahead 10-0 but the Wallabies fought back to lead before Lolesio kicked the hosts clear with 90 seconds to play.
The win was Australia’s ninth in a row at the stadium dating to 2016 and capped a tight series that had featured two-point wins to both sides in a three-match series compressed over 11 days.
Australia coach Dave Rennie was full of praise for the resolve and determination of his team after losing both wingers inside the first five minutes of the match, with Filipo Daugunu injuring his arm in a tackle inside the first 90 seconds before Koroibete’s contentious red card.
“It was terribly milked wasn’t it,” said Rennie about Jelonch’s reaction to Koroibete’s tackle. “He obviously feels he’s got some head contact then he’s grabbed his face, which is nowhere near the point of impact and it’s delayed by five seconds.“
Rennie also confirmed they would contest Koroibete’s charge and pointed to high hits on both Tate McDermott and Hunter Paisami that he thought were similar “red card scenarios,” but his players didn’t stay down.
“Every time there is anything like a head shot these guys had been shot by a sniper,” Rennie said. “The issue for us is do we get to the stage we’re telling our players to lie on the ground like the French did every time there’s any head contact.
“I don’t think it’s in the spirit of the game.”
French coach Fabien Galthie twice refused to answer when asked his opinion, instead leaving it for Jelonch who insisted a red card was the “logical” decision.
French halfback Baptiste Couilloud ran over his opposite Tate McDermott for the game’s first try. McDermott had an immediate reply though, racing to link up with Michael Hooper after Lolesio had put the captain through a gap in the French defense.
A Lolesio intercept try put the Wallabies ahead before a string of unforced errors allowed France flanker Cameron Woki to score a try and the sides went to halftime level at 20-20.
Pierre-Louis Barassi finished a 90-meter play for a French try but prop Taniela Tupou’s arrival after 46 minutes paid off when he barged over.
The teams traded penalties after that, both teams missing one each as well, before Lolesio nailed the match-winner. France had one last attempt with a penalty on halfway, but Darcy Swain forced the turnover after the visitors opted to kick for touch and go for the try.
Australia had a 23-21 comeback win with a last-minute penalty goal in the series opener on July 7. France responded Tuesday in Melbourne with a 28-26 victory, its first win over the Wallabies in Australia since 1990.
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First published on: AP