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Young Wallabies flyhalf Lolesio lays down marker with 23-point haul

By AAP
Wallaby coach Dave Rennie celebrates with Noah Lolesio during the Australia v France, 3rd Rugby Test at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia on Saturday 17th July 2021. Mandatory credit: © Jason O'Brien / www.photosport.nz

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Saturday evening’s result could yet prove to be the making of Dave Rennie’s Wallabies, as the side celebrated a defiant test series win over France and look towards facing the All Blacks in New Zealand next month.

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A controversial red card to winger Marika Koroibete – arguably Australia’s best player across the first two games of the deadlocked series – threatened to spoil the contest just five minutes into the decider.

Instead Australia rallied, with 21-year-old five-eighth Noah Lolesio scoring a try and kicking the winning penalty as he amassed 23 of his side’s points in a 33-30 victory for a ninth-straight win at Suncorp Stadium.

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Down a man for 75 minutes, the Wallabies defended stoutly and showed progress when their forward pack overpowered the French, who produced sublime rugby of their own on the night.

Tate McDermott also scored and was effective in his first test start while lock Darcy Swain (24) and outside centre Len Ikitau (22) also enjoyed their first Wallabies starts.

Rennie was scathing of what he described to be France’s “milking” of any high contact post-game, questioning whether it was in the spirit of the game and revealing his aims to fight Koroibete’s charge.

But he was equally effusive of his men, who he said had given him plenty more to ponder ahead of their next test against the All Blacks on August 7 at Eden Park.

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“Oh God I don’t know about that, but I appreciate it,” he said when asked if the win with 14 men would be generation-defining. “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,” he said. “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.”

Lolesio showed poise to slot the match-winner – after missing his previous kick (his only miss of the series) – with 90 seconds to go while Swain won the penalty to seal the contest on the buzzer.

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Ikitau paired in the centres with 23-year-old Hunter Paisami, Rennie making the bold move to leave experienced No 12 Matt Toomua on the bench until the final moments.

Captain Michael Hooper, playing in his 55th test as captain, ranked it among his favourite wins.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “You see our guys react when they’re in the changing room, it’s just a huge reward to see smiles on faces. 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.”

“It’s pretty special, something that will stay with us for a long time,” said Hooper.

– Murray Wenzel

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Young Wallabies flyhalf Lolesio lays down marker with 23-point haul

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