Fortunate Wallabies get the win they crave, but ghosts of 2020 still abound

The Wallabies at last have their second win under Dave Rennie but it took an almighty blunder from the French for Australia to escape with the 23-21 result at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.

It is a significant moment for this Wallabies team in that they are again back in the winner's circle after a 1-2-3 run in Rennie's first year in charge. And that they found a way to do it when all seemed lost one more. It was also their first outing as a team for seven months.

But their performance can be described as little more than patchy, and the result incredibly fortunate given the chaotic ending.

France will lament a butchered lineout clearance and two panicked passes that gave the Wallabies one final chance to extend their unbeaten run at Suncorp to nine; although credit must also go to replacements Darcy Swain and Tate McDermott who got up to pressure the French lineout and then followed through to scramble possession respectively.

Noah Lolesio did the rest from right out in front of the sticks to secure the win, with referee Brendon Pickerill having awarded a succession of penalty advantages as the Wallabies tried to drive their way over from close range.

"We made hard work [of it] didn't we, we gave them a healthy lead to start with but we fought our way back in, we've just got to be a little bit more clinical and accurate," Rennie told Stan Sport. "We probably bombed a few opportunities late, but happy to get there in the end."

Australia will want to move on swiftly from this victory. Their shaky start, which saw the French scoot out to a 15-0 lead through two tries to Gabin Villiere, only steadily improved as the match went on, while there were further examples of the poor finishing that dominated Rennie's first season in charge.

First it was Tom Wright who couldn't force the bouncing ball in-goal from a deft Hunter Paisami grubber, before Paisami himself then overcooked a cross-kick for replacement Andrew Kellaway with the winger in acres of open space.

Both plays suggested, again, it just wasn't going to be the Wallabies' night.

The other areas of rust were numerous. Australia did it tough exiting their own half while starting halves Jake Gordon and Lolesio never really asserted themselves on the match. Given Gordon's destructive running game in Super Rugby, it was curious to see him seldom challenge the French tight forwards around the breakdown.

Australia's skill execution, which Rennie bemoaned at halftime, was also well down on Test standard, though it did start to improve in the second stanza as the Wallabies found some semblance of rhythm against a French side that increasingly started to make errors of their own.

The tourists were also on the end of a whopping 14-6 penalty count. France were repeatedly pinged for offside while Australia also had great success at the scrum, after conceding the first set-piece penalty of the match themselves.

It's not often the Wallabies' scrum proves their biggest weapon, and it only got better once Taniela Tupou came on. In fact, the injection of McDermott, Swain and Tupou proved to be energy the Wallabies needed to hang in a contest that, for so long, they seemed destined to lose.

And then there was captain Michael Hooper. Having been the centre of a talk surrounding both his captaincy and even his position in the starting side -- at least while Fraser McReight was in form through Super Rugby AU -- Hooper answered his critics emphatically with a typically dogged display that brought breakdown penalties, desperate defence and then by using his backside to score the try that brought the Wallabies within the penalty kick they would eventually convert to win.

The target of several French restarts, Marika Koroibete ran with purpose from the back and also went in looking for work in the middle of the paddock. In one sequence, Koroibete twice got back to his feet to play the ball to pinch an extra 10 metres for the Wallabies.

But both of Australia's tries came through the forwards. The first via the rolling maul, and the work of Brumbies coach Dan McKellar was also clearly obvious in that department. While the Wallabies only scored once from a five-metre lineout, there were other occasions when they were able to roll forward through a well-constructed drive.

The French attack found some space in the wider channels and then from the set-play that brought about Villiers' second try; but Fabien Galthie's side had so few extended periods of possession it was hard to judge the Australian defensive effort either way.

Both sides now just have five days to prepare for the second Test in Melbourne.

Given the size of France's touring squad and the fact they only cleared hotel quarantine 36 hours before kick-off in Brisbane, it's likely Galthie will make wholesale changes to his 23 for Tuesday's clash at AAMI Park.

Rennie, too, has some options, while the fitness of James O'Connor will be a key focus in the lead-up to the second Test. If the Wallabies win in Melbourne, they will have secured their first series victory under Rennie.

"Test two we'll look put as strong a side on the field as we can," Rennie said. "It doesn't mean that we won't have guys sharing the load a little bit, but we've had three really tough weeks. So the next six days we'll get a bit of work into them; what we know it we're in a pretty good spot from a conditioning point-of-view, and I think that shone out tonight.

"So we'll manage the boys, we'll work, but we'll be smart around it; there'll be guys that I reckon will play all three Tests and do it easily."

But the Wallabies' performance will need to be a whole lot better, too, as no matter how enigmatic the French might be, they're unlikely to giftwrap another golden opportunity as they did on Wednesday night.

Although the visitors have got form in that department.

"Ironically I saw Scotland do it against France in the Six Nations, the same situation, France were in front, could have kicked out, didn't, and Scotland scored off it," Rennie quipped post match. "But, na, it's my debut [winning that way]."