A courageous 14-man Wallabies outfit has overcome the controversial send-off of Marika Koroibete to notch a courageous 33-30 win against France and record an unlikely series victory.
It was the first time since the Wallabies’ series win over Les Bleus in 2014 that they had won a Test series on home soil.
An 80th minute maul turnover from Darcy Swain sealed victory for the Wallabies just minutes after Noah Lolesio kicked a tough penalty to break a 30-30 deadlock to seal a famous win.
But it was the red card handed to Koroibete just five minutes into the match that was the talking point.
World Rugby’s crackdown on high tackles has come under fire after Wallabies winger Koroibete was handed a red card for a tackle on French captain Anthony Jelonch.
In what seemed a clear shoulder to shoulder clash, Koroibete was red carded after referee Ben O’Keefe, on the advice of TMO Glenn Newman, ruled the tackle on the no. 8 was direct contact to the head and neck, with no mitigation despite replays clearly showing the French captain’s body position dropping significantly in the moments just before contact.
Once that call was made — with O’Keefe also noting speedster Koroibete had run from a distance to hit Jelonch with force — officials had no choice but to hand him a red card under rules introduced to protect players’ heads.
Koroibete (left) left the field early in the contest. Picture: Jono Searle/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
But the call came under immediate fire, with usually measured commentators Tim Horan and Andrew Mehrtens enormously critical.
“I’m all for the welfare of players in the game of rugby union but that’s a really poor call from the officials and Ben O’Keefe,” Horan said.
All Blacks legend Mehrtens called it an “absolute travesty”.
“They’ve painted themselves into a corner by saying it’s foul play and saying there’s no mitigation and I think they’re wrong on both counts,” he said.
While Super Rugby introduced a rule this season that allowed a red carded player to re-enter the match after 20 minutes, it was rejected for international play, leaving the Wallabies with 14 men for 75 minutes of the match.
The decision seemed only to steel the Wallabies though, who played their best rugby of the series in front of a crowd of 34,164, who were whipped into a fury early and found plenty of voice.
When France scored through scrumhalf Baptiste Couillard just minutes later and then knocked through a penalty to go 10-0 up after just eight minutes, the Wallabies seemed in for a long night.
But in a magnificent fightback, the Wallabies hit back with a try to hometown hero Tate McDermott that fired belief they could conjure a huge upset.
The teams were locked at 20-20 at halftime and while the French scored a magnificent long-range try just minutes after the break, the Wallabies refused to yield and kept alive their incredible winning run at Suncorp Stadium.
Tate McDermott scored his first try as a Wallaby on Saturday night. Picture: Albert Perez/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, who made the key break that led to McDermott’s try, said he was “so proud” of his team.
“We love playing here, the crowd got us home so much,” Hooper said of a Suncorp Stadium winning streak that stretches back to 2016 against England.
While he missed a penalty to send his team ahead in the 58th minute, Lolesio slotted another two attempts inside the final 10 minutes for a personal haul of 23 points and was outstanding under pressure, as was Swain in the dying minutes.
Taniela Tupou was outstanding in 34 minutes off the bench, scoring a crucial try.
Koroibete’s red card was not the only early drama for the Wallabies, who lost Filipo Daugunu after just a minute to a suspected broken arm, while Lachlan Swinton limped off the field late in the match.
WALLABIES 33 (Tries: McDermott, Lolesio, Tupou; Cons: Lolesio 3; Pens: Lolesio 4)
FRANCE 30 (Tries: Couilloud, Woki, Barassi; Cons: Jaminet 2; Pens: Jaminet 2)
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