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Australia player ratings vs France | eToro Series

By Tom Raine

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It was a nervy encounter in Brisbane on Wednesday evening as France and Australia met in the first of three tests scheduled across eleven days.

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Both sides struggled to really hit their stride throughout, with the Wallabies deploying several new combinations in key positions in this, their first match of 2021. France’s inexperience meanwhile, after the side initially looking quite assured, started to really show as the match went on.

It was Les Bleus who struck first – the ball squirting awkwardly out of a scrum in the Australian 22 and setting up winger Gabin Villière down the left. Certainly, the French over the opening twenty minutes displayed a level of test match brutality honed over a competitive Six Nations campaign, as they suffocated the Wallabies into making unforced errors with high-pressure defence. A Louis Carbonel penalty and a second Villière try saw France 15-0 up after 25 minutes.

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The Wallabies slowly started to build momentum from that point onwards, spending an extended period of time in the French half and opting to go to their lineout several times with hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa eventually crashing over.

That Australian intent continued into the second half, with the Wallabies grabbing the first points through the boot of Noah Lolesio, before Carbonel restored the French lead to eight.

The second forty proved to be tense, with errors aplenty from both sides, but it was France who continued to keep their noses in front as Lolesio and Melvyn Jaminet traded penalties. It fell to Wallabies captain Michael Hooper to make the breakthrough, sneaking over late on to bring the Wallabies back to within one point.

A frantic last five minutes followed, Lolesio narrowly missing a drop goal attempt and the French seemingly assured of marching to their first victory over the Wallabies in Australia since 1990. Late panic seemed to set in however, with the French unable to secure the lineout and end the game. The Wallabies pounced, building nearly 20 phases in the French 22 and finally drawing the penalty for Lolesio to slot through and secure a 23-21 win.

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Here’s how the Wallabies rated:

1. James Slipper – 6/10
The Wallabies centurion carried well when he did get the ball but enjoyed an average night in the scrum. Made the weight advantage of the Aussie pack count at first but settled into a real tussle with Demba Bamba after that. Started to regain some ascendency after Tupou was introduced. Off after 63 mins.

2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa – 7.5
Solid scrummaging from the 25-year-old and was unlucky to see the ball spurt out awkwardly from the set piece to set up France’s first try. Only one wayward throw all evening and was rewarded for his accuracy, securing the first Australian try of the evening off the back of a solid Wallabies maul. Off after 60.

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3. Allan Alaalatoa – 6
Made a good handful of tackles for his side as the French looked to build phases, but was unable to stop the opposition’s momentum as they trucked it up at close quarters. Had an indifferent time in the scrum. Off after 52.

4. Matt Philip – 6
Put his hand up to share in the carrying responsibilities as the Wallabies looked to settle and build phases. Looked good with his maul setups from the lineout but the French maul defence was often up to the task. Unable to mount much of a lineout defence himself. Off after 55 mins.

5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – 7
Showed real deftness in his handling as a member of the screening forwards unit, and helped to organise many of the Australian mauls. Much like Philip however, found the French to be well set in their defence of that particular set piece. Tackled well and tried to take the game to the French pack.

6. Rob Valetini – 6
Good attacking impetus from the 22-year-old, coming off the back of some great form in Super Rugby this year, as he made the most carries out of the Wallabies forwards. Whilst he was prone to some errors, the Wallabies will be keen to see him grow into the role over the next few weeks.

7. Michael Hooper (c) – 8
A true captain’s performance from Hooper on his return to Australian shores. Used all of his 105-test caps of experience to make the crucial plays when they were needed, drawing two important turnovers in possession. The first denying the French on the Wallabies’ line and the second, allowing the Wallabies to get on the scoreboard first in the second half. Scored the try that brought the Aussies within one point.

8. Harry Wilson – 7
Not at his barnstorming best in attack but in defence really got through some work, making the most tackles for his side. Utilised more as a workhouse, getting involved with carries and making the most metres out of his forward pack. Off after 72 mins.

9. Jake Gordon – 6
Came out of the gate quickly hoping to set the pace from the off, but struggled early on to build continuity against a staunch French defence – Shaun Edwards really putting the new halfback pairing to the test. Made a couple of unforced errors but actively looked to redeem himself. Had a varied night with the boot producing only a few contestable box kicks. Off after 60.

10. Noah Lolesio – 6.5
Was perfect off the tee in what was only his third appearance in the green and gold, stepping up to slot the match-winning penalty. In attack, showed good intent with a variety of kicks but would have probably hoped for more support from the older heads in the side, especially given the heat he was getting from the French defence. Made some defensive and unforced errors, but perhaps most pleasing was his awareness to drop into the pocket late on for the drop goal attempt.

11. Marika Koroibete – 7
Looked to get stuck in across the park and was roaming throughout, searching for gaps in the blue wall. Brought effective physicality in attack and made good inroads, finishing the game joint top for metres made for the Wallabies. Showed a couple of nice pieces of handling and managed to land a trademark heavy hit on Damian Penaud as the French looked to break.

12. Matt To’omua – 6
Skinned on the outside by Arthur Vincent early on and faced a difficult prospect in marking the lively Jonathan Danty. Utilised perhaps more as a battering ram than as a playmaker as the 10-12 axis with Lolesio took time to warm up.

13. Hunter Paisami – 7.5 
An exciting showing from the man playing on his home ground. Looked to make metres with the ball in hand and ran some fantastic lines – one of which could have resulted in a try if not for a forward pass. Nice touches in close spaces including a grubber that likely should have resulted in a try for Tom Wright, but also saw first hand what a high pressure Shaun Edwards defence is all about.

14. Tom Wright – 6 
Had to shoot up in defence allowing Villière to capatilise on an overlap for the first French try. Showed good attacking impetus and strength, but just didn’t get the ball in his hands enough in attack. Was hearty in defence and will be disappointed not to have grabbed a try. Off after 68.

15. Tom Banks – 6.5 
Enjoyed a fairly solid night under the high ball but missed touch with his first penalty attempt. Settled better into his kicking as the game progressed but not really given the space to show off his attacking flair.

Replacements:

16. Lachlan Lonergan- 6
On at 60 to make his debut. Missed his first throw but went on to redeem himself, scrummaging well to draw an important penalty with 5 minutes left to play.

17. Angus Bell – 6 
On at 63. Carried hard in close quarters and put in a couple of big hits in defence.

18. Taniela Tupou – 7
On at 52. Brought the physicality instantly to the French, drawing out a couple of important scrum penalties. Got to show his devastating attacking ability with a handful of good runs.

19. Darcy Swain – N/A
On at 55 to make his debut. Produced a nice charge down as the French looked to exit.

20. Isi Naisarani – 6
On at 72 mins. Produced a nice tip on to Tupou and provided disruption to the French lineout.

21. Tate McDermott – 7.5
On at 60 mins. Brought excellent energy to the side late on and proved a real handful for a tiring French defence. Looked to attack the line with ball in hand and put up a nice competitive box kick in the opposition half. Instrumental in scrapping hard to secure the ball in the dying seconds of regular time to set up the drama at the end.

22. Len Ikitau – N/A

23. Andrew Kellaway – N/A
On at 68 mins to make his debut.

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Australia player ratings vs France | eToro Series

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