Sydney University Football Club had four players involved in the final match of the Wallabies Northern Hemisphere Spring Tour, a famous come-from-behind 39-34 win over Wales.
Halfback Jake Gordon and hooker Folau Fainga’a were in the starting line-up for the Test at Lands-down Road in Dublin, with props Sam Talakai and Tom Robertson coming off the bench. And all made solid contributions as the Wallabies overcame a 21-point deficit – 34-13 – midway through the second half to score the winning try with 100 seconds on the clock. SUFC’s other two tourists, lock Will Skelton and five-eighth Bernard Foley were unavailable for the Wales Test, with Skelton returning to France and Foley to Japan to fulfil club commitments. But they’ll be firmly in contention for next year’s World Cup in France.
Indeed, it was the trusty boot of Foley who helped the Wallabies to a 16-15 win over Scotland in the opening match of the five-Test tour played at Murrayfield. Foley potted three penalty goals and a conversion from as many attempts to live up to his nickname, The Iceman. Scotland led 15-6 going into the final quarter, but the match turned Australia’s way when Scotland replacement Glen Young was sin-binned for a dangerous challenge on Australia scrum-half Tate McDermott.
With Scotland a man down, Australia captain James Slipper forced his way over for a converted try before Foley’s penalty nudged the Wallabies a point in front 10 minutes from time. They held on to win. Hooker Fainga’a came off the bench midway through the second half. Gordon was a surprise omission when coach Dave Rennie named the squad to take on Scotland, while props Sam Talakai and Tom Robertson and lock Will Skelton were saved for other matches on the five-week tour.
After starting the tour on a high, the Wallabies suffered three close losses before the Wales win. Foley played another strong hand in the Wallabies 30-29 loss to France in Paris, converting both Australian tries and slotting four penalty goals. France scored at the death and held on to win. Will Skelton made a welcome return to Wallaby colours against France while Fainga’a came off the bench midway through the second half.
The Wallabies followed that effort with another one-point loss – 28-27 – this time to Italy. The loss was compounded by Ben Donaldson missing a kickable penalty goal in the final minute. The Waratahs five-eighth, who was making his debut for Australia, was one of 11 changes coach Rennie made for the Test line-up. Perhaps Foley might have edged the Wallabies home. But he wasn’t named in the starting XV or on the bench. Fainga’a, Skelton and Gordon were in the starting line-up against Italy, while Robertson came off the bench.
SUFC had five disappointed players on the field when the Wallabies went down 13-10 against Ireland at Lansdowne Road Stadium, Dublin, the following weekend. Foley played the full 80 minutes, while Fainga’a, Robertson, Skelton and Gordon came off the bench. SUFC prop Sam Talakai sat out the Dublin Test. The Wallabies held their own in the dour contest and were in a try scoring position minutes from full-time when a dubious ruck penalty cost them dearly. It was a one-try-a-side contest with a penalty goal making the difference.
But Christmas came 29 days early for Australia when they mounted their heroic comeback to turn the Wales Test around in the dying moments. As for the SUFC contingent, bring on World Cup selection.