In the 23rd minute, the real drama began. All Blacks prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi got a tackle on Tom Wright wrong and was shown a red card.
Just like Perth last year, Australia had an early advantage and didn’t want to let it slip.
“We knew the opportunities would open up naturally through us having extra numbers,” Swinton said. “I just happened to even it out.”
Even it out it did, as Swinton was also given his marching orders in the 35th minute when he connected high on Sam Whitelock in similar fashion.
Despite a subtle protest from Michael Hooper to referee Nic Berry, Swinton trudged off Suncorp Stadium with the scores locked 8-8 and a million thoughts running through his mind. David Codey, Drew Mitchell, Tevita Kuridrani and Sekope Kepu are the only other Wallabys who have been handed a red card.
“Everything goes pretty quick,” Swinton said. “I saw it on the big screen and I knew I could be in trouble judged off the previous call on Ofa [Tu’ungafasi]. I didn’t know what was going to happen but rolled with it.
“I was leaving the team down a player. [I thought] I’d let the team down. I don’t want it to happen again.
“It was tough and is tough for anyone having to watch your boys go to work without you. Full credit to the lads, they were chucked a curveball and adapted. By the end I was just stoked to be watching a great performance from my boys.”
Australia ended up claiming a famous 24-22 win and despite missing out on most of the action, Swinton said he regretted little and wouldn’t change the way he played.
He said the four-week ban, which was reduced from an entry point of six weeks, was fair and that he would work hard to change his tackling technique.
“It definitely won’t change the way I play,” Swinton said. “The only thing that will change is me going back and learning from it and working on my tackle technique. The reason why I’ve been able to do what I have in my career is because of the way I play, so I won’t change my intent around the park.
“Considering all the mitigating factors, it was the right decision in the end.”
Swinton said he agreed with Dave Rennie’s view that World Rugby could consider a replacement player after 20 minutes if someone is red carded in order to ensure the contest remains fair.
“I like the sound of that,” Swinton said. “Sometimes people can be like, ‘Oh, they had 14 men on the field, that’s why they won’. We obviously want the contest to be as fair as possible.”
The 23-year-old certainly showed he belonged at Test level and won’t get another chance until next July when Australia face France, but is thankful to have got his first taste of international rugby.
“It’s been such an unreal experience and I definitely want more,” Swinton said. “I’m just rolling with the punches. My focus is now on the team and trying to prepare them as best as possible and furthering my development. I’ve just got to move on.”
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald