Rugby-Lolesio kicks 14-man Australia to 33-30 win to seal series against France

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Wallabies flyhalf Noah Lolesio slotted a penalty with two minutes left as a 14-man Australia edged France 33-30 in a nerve-shredding classic in Brisbane on Saturday to seal the three-test series 2-1.

Australia were a man down in the fifth minute when winger Marika Koroibete was given a red card for a high tackle on France captain Anthony Jelonch but the Wallabies rallied brilliantly at Lang Park.

Lolesio was nerveless off the tee in the last few minutes, and he calmly kicked over the winner from a sharp angle to extend Australia's winning streak to nine at their Brisbane fortress.

His kick capped a fairytale series for the young flyhalf, who had slotted the winning penalty after the siren when Australia clinched the series-opener 23-21 at Lang Park.

"So proud," Australia captain Michael Hooper said.

"We love playing here, the crowd got us home.

"Each game (came) down to the wire so thanks to France travelling around the world in this day and age, it made for a great competition."

Australia had tries from Tate McDermott, Lolesio and Taniela Tupou, with Baptiste Couilloud, Cameron Woki and Pierre-Louis Barassi crossing for the understrength French, who were missing many of their test regulars due to COVID-19 travel curbs.

All three matches of the series were decided by three points or less, but the finale topped them all for drama.

Australia lost both their Fijian wingers in a disastrous start, with Filipo Daugunu forced off with a wrist injury in the second minute before Koroibete's sending-off.

Koroibete's shoulder made contact with Jelonch's chin but the French skipper had crouched low into the tackle and the red card was roundly booed by the crowd.

Jelonch clutched at his face as he went down in the tackle.

"There was a couple of situations where our guys got clocked in the head but didn't stay down," said Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.

"So maybe that was the difference."

With Australia still reeling, France skipped away to a 10-0 lead, with scrumhalf Couilloud steamrolling McDermott on the goal-line to touch down in the eighth minute.

Australia responded through Hooper, who rallied his team with a line-break to put McDermott over three minutes later.

Lolesio nosed Australia in front, converting his own intercept try after swooping on a Couilloud pass and dashing to the line in the 20th minute.

Woki restored France's lead four minutes before the break, taking the ball from a ruck and slam-dunking it over the line.

But Lolesio knocked over a penalty after the halftime siren to leave the game poised at 20-20.

A majestic team try completed by Barassi seven minutes after the restart put France in front again, but prop Tupou barged over under the posts in the 51st minute to reel the visitors back in.

The tension rose as first Melvyn Jaminet, then Lolesio missed penalties wide.

Wallabies hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa barged over in the 66th minute to send the crowd into raptures, but the try was cancelled after a video review, with centre Hunter Paisami found to have knocked on in the buildup.

Lolesio finally nudged Australia 30-27 ahead with a 73rd minute penalty, but more drama was to come as the Wallabies coughed up possession after the restart and Rob Valetini laid a high tackle on Jaminet.

Jaminet, who kicked the winner in the 28-26 win in Melbourne on Tuesday, slotted the penalty to level the game at 30-30 with five minutes left.

Australia were not to be denied, however, and Lolesio's assured finish gave the rebuilding Wallabies a vital confidence boost ahead of next month's All Blacks tests.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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