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Australia come from 15 points down to snatch last-gasp win over France

A polished Les Bleus looked to be headed for their first win on Australian soil in more than 30 years.

Noah Lolesio is congratulated by Wallabies team-mates after kicking the winning penalty in today's game against France.
Noah Lolesio is congratulated by Wallabies team-mates after kicking the winning penalty in today's game against France.
Image: AAP/PA Images

NOAH LOLESIO NAILED a last-gasp penalty as Australia clawed back a 15-point deficit to edge an under-strength France 23-21 today and win a physical opening Test of the three-match series.

A polished Les Bleus looked to be headed for their first win on Australian soil in more than 30 years, only for victory to be snatched away at the death. 

Winger Gabin Villiere scored two tries for France, with Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Michael Hooper crossing for Australia.

But after an erratic 2020 in which they won just one from six, Dave Rennie’s Wallabies were again far from convincing against a French side missing key players and who had just come out of 14 days of quarantine.

Australia dropped too much ball and missed too many tackles early on to fall 15-0 down before a late try sent them to the half-time break just seven points adrift.

France held on in the second half and seemed destined for the narrowest of wins at 21-20 ahead when they secured possession from a lineout with the 80-minute hooter having sounded.

But instead of clearing into touch for victory, a desperate scramble saw a loose pass enable Australia to regain possession in the France 22 and go for one last push, which culminated in the late penalty award.

“I’m proud of our guys. I thought we mauled really well and that applied a lot of pressure to the French,” said Wallabies skipper Hooper, who was playing his 106th Test.

He said that he was encouraged by the fight his team showed but added: “There was a lot of opportunities that we missed.”

Match-winner Lolesio, who had missed a drop-kick attempt four minutes from time, was lost for words.

“That’s Test footy for you. I’m so proud of myself — far out, man. I’m happy,” he said.

Defeat compounded France’s poor run on Australian soil, where they have not won since 1990. Earning a win was always going to be tough for Fabien Galthie’s side after their build-up was hampered by having to spend two weeks in quarantine, only emerging on the eve of the Test. They were also without a host of regulars, including those from Top 14 finalists Toulouse and La Rochelle.

Nevertheless, the young cohort, including six uncapped players in the 23 and only two with 20-plus caps, showed plenty of flair. Played in front of some 20,000 fans at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, they made a perfect start with a statement try after five minutes on the back of a turnover.

It culminated with Villiere piercing the defence after some quality ball handling in the build-up. Louis Carbonel sent a straightforward conversion wide but made amends by slotting a tough penalty to pull them eight points clear midway through the half after Wallabies number eight Harry Wilson was penalised at the breakdown.

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And they stretched their advantage when Villiere found a gaping hole in the defence after a beautiful offload from Jonathan Danty, with Carbonel adding the extras.

France were far more polished than Australia, but the hosts hauled themselves back seven minutes before the break after a lineout set-piece. It ended with hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa flopping over after a powerful drive with Noah Lolesio nailing a tricky conversion to take them to the break 15-7 behind.

They returned with greater energy but it was Carbonel who added another three points for France soon after the restart after Hooper gave away a penalty.

A cruel bounce from a perfectly weighted grubber kick cost a chasing Tom Wright an almost certain try 15 minutes in.

Lolesio and Carbonel exchanged penalties before Hooper finished a period of pressure from Australia by backing over for a try from a ruck.

Lolesio converted to leave the Wallabies just one point adrift at 21-20 with 10 minutes to play to set up the nailbiting finale.

© – AFP, 2021

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