01/03/2024

Despite looking rusty early, Australia finished strongly in an international classic against France Photo: World Rugby - Twitter

The Wallabies has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, scoring in the 85th minute to steal a win over the luckless French at Suncorp Stadium.

Suncorp Stadium has seen many great rugby moments, but it has never witnessed something quite like this.

The Wallabies, in their first test of the series against the travelling French, didn’t lead the game at any time throughout the regular 80-minute period of the topsy-turvy match.

But a loose pass in the attempt to secure a game-clinching lineout gave Australia one last chance to erase the one-point deficit, which took around five minutes before a Noah Lolesio penalty ended a remarkable match.

A rusty Australian side started off very slowly up in Queensland, turning over its first scrum opportunity horrifically to gift Les Bleus with the opening try. In front of a smattering of attendees at Suncorp Stadium, the Wallabies slumped to a rusty opening twenty minutes.

Despite looking shaky defensively, the Wallabies emerging attacking weapons seemed to have locked up proceedings when Hunter Paisami capped off a series of superb passes by sliding over the line. But the TMO showed an earlier forward pass that cruelled Australia of a much-needed try.

From there, they were overrun by a sea of blue.

An exquisite penalty kick from Louis Carbonel extended the visitors ascendancy, as Les Blues looked sharp despite being forced into hotel quarantine in search of a rare series win down under.

France were at their gritty best when creating a chain of passes, only to change direction at the drop of a step and disorientate Australia’s strong defence.

It was executed perfectly just after the 20-minute mark when Gabin Villiere crosses through the inside of Jonathan Danty to slide through a gap and score another try in a French onslaught. Before some spectators could settle into their seats, their nation was down 15-0 and looked to be in all sorts of trouble.

The opening half was a lesson in the Wallabies’ weaknesses. Often choosing to run the ball back up from French kicks instead of gaining territory, they were quickly made to pay for overusing the ball.

In contrast, Les Bleus’ attacking thrusts were full of aggressive kicking and hard running, challenging Australia’s midfield and tiring them out quickly.

But that doesn’t mean the Wallabies were constantly sloppy. When they finally clicked into gear after the half-hour mark, their persistent offence and slick set plays paid off strongly, as seen when ten minutes of brutal attacking in the corner was rewarded with a cross-field kick that allowed Brandon Paenga-Amosa to score off the lineout.

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Always a game of momentum, Australia’s lacklustre first half changed in the shadows of the halftime break. Instead of grinding out to the end, France’s lapse in concentration nearly resulted in a Wallabies score, only for the Aussies to butcher the lineout throw and bring down curtains on play.

But the same endeavour carried over into the second half, as Michael Hooper led his troops back into the contest on the scoreboard.

Getting himself to the scene of a breakdown first, the Wallabies captain gets the penalty for his hard work and grit, allowing Lolesio to capitalise on France’s loose start to the second half.

Yet just as Hooper is the hero, he also quickly becomes the villain when trailing offside. Carbonel’s converted penalty once again ruined the Wallabies run, and all of a sudden Les Bleus had asserted their dominance.

Despite looking stronger and better for most of the match, the French never totally looked comfortable. When the game was yearning to be put away in the final quarter of the contest, they became jittery and coughed up another penalty to keep Australia within striking distance. What happened next was extraordinary.

Never looking steady and composed enough to challenge Les Bleus, the Wallabies found another gear in the final stages. Despite Melvyn Jaminet’s wonderful penalty kick from the boundary giving the French an eight-point lead, a Hooper try on the stroke of the 71st minute lessened the deficit to a single point.

The captain once again stuck his head down and scored in an inspirational effort, giving the Wallabies every chance of stealing an unlikely win.

A missed Lolesio field goal looked to have ruined Australia’s chance of a remarkable comeback, as the French received the ball with only three minutes of regular time left on the clock.

But when the siren sounded for the 80th minute, Les Bleus simply had to secure a lineout and finish the match. A stray hand disrupted the process, before an errant pass gives the Wallabies a chance to snatch possession and push for a winning score.

After five agonising minutes of struggling to push through the French defence and secure the winning try, a penalty try gives Australia every chance to securing the try without fear of losing the kick.

Finally, they get sick of their tireless efforts against a wall of blue, and flick the ball back for the chance to kick the goal. The shot’s blocked, but a penalty gives Lolesio the chance to be the hero.

It was definitely one of the more dramatic finishes seen in an international test for some time. France, on the verge of a rare victory in Australia, found a way to defeat themselves.

After being so strong for so long, mental errors in the clutch gave a rusty yet gallant Wallabies unit the chance to save face and steal a memorable victory.

As far as memorable finishes go, it has to be one of the best Suncorp Stadium has ever played host to. It may go down as a defining moment in Wallabies history.

The Wallabies will take on Les Bleus on Tuesday, July 13 at AAMI Park.

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