Ireland won 26-21 in Melbourne on Saturday to claim their first win against the Wallabies in Australia since 1979. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
After losing the first Test in Brisbane last week, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt made eight changes to his team, including the return of influential flyhalf Johnny Sexton, lock Devin Toner and prop Cian Healy.
It had the desired effect. Apart from the first couple of minutes, and the last few, Ireland dominated the match, enjoying 60% of the possession and 63% of the territory. Their backs were threatening on attack and good in the air, while their forwards bossed the breakdown.
Crucially, Ireland were able to score 13 unanswered points while playing against 14 men and then didn’t concede any when they themselves were a man down later on in the first half and again at the end of the match.
Somehow, the Wallabies trailed by just two points early in the second half but eventually the pressure told on their defence, which was forced to make 122 tackles compared to Ireland’s 79.
To their credit, Australia never stopped fighting and scored a late try that narrowed the gap to five. But Ireland’s 14-man defence stood firm in the final two minutes to secure a drought-breaking victory Down Under.
The Wallabies made a perfect start to this game when Kurtley Beale switched with Bernard Foley after a seven-phase attack. CJ Stander and Rob Kearney couldn’t get a hand on the inside centre, who sprinted 35m to score under the posts.
But that’s as good as it got for the hosts, as Marika Koroibete was yellow-carded for a lifting tackle shortly afterwards. Ireland kicked the penalty into touch, and while the Wallabies were able to stop the lineout driving maul, they couldn’t prevent Andrew Conway from scoring in the corner after the ball had gone wide. Sexton slotted the conversion and then added three penalties.
The Wallabies hit back in the 26th minute after deciding to kick for the corner rather than at goal. Ireland collapsed the lineout driving maul just short of the line and the referee awarded a penalty try, with Healy being sent to the sin bin.
However, 14-man Ireland dominated the next 10 minutes and took a 16-14 lead into half-time.
It was all Ireland after the break too and the pressure eventually told in the 54th minute when Tadhg Furlong powered over from close range (incredibly, the prop made the most running metres for his side on the night).
Sexton kicked the conversion and slotted a 66th-minute penalty to give his side a 12-point lead.
There would be some late drama when Jack McGrath was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-down and Taniela Tupou went over to score the Wallabies’ third converted try.
But Ireland were able to hang on for the win and will go into the third Test in Sydney next Saturday as slight favourites.
Wallabies – Tries: Kurtley Beale, penalty try, Taniela Tupou. Conversions: Bernard Foley (2).
Ireland – Tries: Andrew Conway, Tadhg Furlong. Conversions: Johnny Sexton. Penalties: Sexton (2).
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 David Pocock, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Lukhan Tui, 21 Pete Samu, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Reece Hodge.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour.
Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images