In a morale-boosting result, the Fighting Wallabies spirit saw the hosts claim a 2-1 French Test series win in the most trying circumstances.
Joyful scenes followed the completion of the third test, with another narrow win going the way of Australia 33-30 after an early setback jolted the hopes of the crowd in Suncorp Stadium. Yet with a one-man advantage for 75 minutes, France were unable to overcome a credible and dedicated Wallabies victory.
The French players appeared shell-shocked post-game. With Marika Koroibete sent from the field for a suspect red card ruling, the history of similarly balanced matches usually sat in the hands of the team with a full compliment. Think the Wallabies versus the All Blacks in 2019, or more pointedly, the British and Irish Lions win in the Wellington rain when Sonny Bill Williams was shown red.
So how did Australia do it? Though sheer bloody-mindedness – mind my French. But seriously, the fighting Wallabies’ active intent was evident in both halves. Down to 14 men, it took everything from Michael Hooper’s group to overcome the odds.
And overcome they did.
There it is! We'll take the @eToroAU France Series trophy! #AUSvFRA @eToroAU #FranceSeries #YourTeam #OurJourney pic.twitter.com/BJck7sQqhB
— Wallabies (@wallabies) July 17, 2021
Fighting Wallabies spirit sees 2-1 French Test series win
20-20 at halftime, few would believe that the reduced Wallabies backline could withstand the French flair. Already, a denied Teddy Thomas try showed the attacking instinct of this touring side. Still a strong squad, even without several of their Six Nations players absent. Captain Charles Ollivon had to sit at home nursing an ACL injury, and missing the likes of star halves Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack, they still had the depth to win the second test match.
They showed plenty of energy in open play but it was in the setpiece where France would lose this contest. Winning only 75% of both their lineouts, and their own scrums, which is far too weak an effort in the International game. Three lineouts were stolen, and in the second half, it was noticeable how Les Bleus were hesitant to kick the ball out.
Australia also benefitted from a penalty count which allowed Noah Lolesio to convert 4/5 place kicks. Add in his converted tries plus, an aggressive first-half intercept, producing 23 points on his own. An MVP performance, to complement his last gasp penalty to help the hosts the Test series. Losing the powerful Koroibete, as well as the unlucky Filipo Daugunu [to a wrist injury] saw Reece Hodge not able to impact as foreseen – though head coach Dave Rennie was content with the attitude and effort from his complement of men.
He told media, “Certainly it was massive for us. We’ve been building; we were scratchy first up [in a fortunate two-point win], better in Melbourne [in a two-point loss] but turned over too much pill, then tonight was just gutsy.
“We put a lot of young men on the park tonight and they repaid us in spades. We’re creating good depth and competition for spaces and this is massive for us because it gives you belief and highlights how tight they are as a group.”
The same sense of accomplishment was expressed from the fighting Wallabies most earnest and hardworking captain, Michael Hooper. “It’s pretty special; you see our guys react when they’re in the change room, it’s just a huge reward to see smiles on faces,” he said.
“It means a lot to us and the crowd as well; we walk around the stadium tonight … seeing genuine happy faces and we’re able to supply that to a crowd tonight.
Across the course of three Tests, he has shown not only his jackler qualities but assists well in setting up tries – see the Tate McDermott opening try – as well as in his cover defence.
The brilliance of Cameron Woki 🤩
BUT how about that tackle from Michael Hooper 🤯#AUSvFRA
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) July 13, 2021
France rues lost opportunity, as Wallabies emboldened ahead of All Blacks match
Never able to extend a lead over the hosts was a lost opportunity for France. Fabien Galthie will have imagined his substitutions would free their legs and push over the home side. Yet after the three-quarter mark, 27-27 meant each successive penalty and setback caused more and more doubt in French player’s minds.
With messages clearly being fed to players, the impetus was on the visitors to play a controlled attack. At times, Les Bleus captain Anthony Jelonch stood side-by-side with a mic’d up water boy, receiving instructions. It appeared though that a positive third-quarter was not carried through to the end. 80 minutes of rugby union is what was required. Yet in the third game in 11 days, this French team wilted.
In fact, only a fumbled ball cost hooker Brandon Paenga-Amoso a try. That would have surely demoralized France, and even when getting off the hook, poor exists cost Les Bleus plenty. Territory was an embarrassing 29% in the second half! And without attacking players who could ‘earn the meters going upfield’ it saw their inefficiencies exposed.
Add in a tackle count of 137 compared to only 67 required from Australia, the superior attitude from this fighting wallabies group was courageous as much as precise. Hooper asked plenty of the side, and he got more than he asked for. Even when the scores were still level after 75 minutes, a poor return kick take cost France possession, and a penalty closed out the result 33-30.
Some say it has supercharged their self-belief although, right around the corner is an All Black team that is a superior challenge. Not getting over-enthused is one of Dave Rennie’s best attributes, however, he can see something that has been under the gloss left, by former coach Michael Cheika.
Note: Red card ruling overturned by SANZAAR judiciary
Dave Rennie spoke immediately post-match of a suspect ruling, and a panel assembled by SANZAAR has ruled in the defending player’s favour. In a statement issued late Monday night, the committee deemed that Marika Koroibete’s tackle on French loose-forward Anthony Jelonch initially made shoulder to shoulder contact at the fifth minute of the game. Subsequently, through the impact, any contact to the chest and neck was incidental by Koroibete.
Therefore, World Rugby’s Head Contact Process was not met due to mitigating factors, and the act of the foul play was secondary.
On that basis, the independent Disciplinary Committee chaired by Helen Morgan (New Zealand), joined by former players Mike Mika (New Zealand) and Chris Smith (New Zealand), did not uphold the red card and the player is free to play again immediately.
EDITORS OPINION: In relation to the height of the tackler, there is video evidence that has shown how; whether or not the on-field referee saw any dangerous act in the speed and force in which the Aussie-winger attempted the tackle, he did not aim for the head. That is the focus (and should be). To protect the head, yet the judgment must be fair.
Some have accused the officials of ‘going through the process’ with less attention to technique, rather than the follow-up actions of the tackled player. Rennie even called it ‘milking penalties’ and opinion is split across the board. Even the tackle of Faf de Klerk was analyzed to the ‘nth degree, even though his height only focused the attention on how low today that attacking players get.
It is hoped that in the Lions series and The Rugby Championship, that sanity begins to rule yet, as seen in both hemispheres, the occasional ‘whopper’ fails from some referees only highlights the usually well-adhered to rulings. maybe it is just that at Test level, the importance of the matches put any and all incidents way out of proportion.
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