Ireland withstood a late onslaught from the Wallabies to record a dramatic 26-23 win in Dublin on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
It was another massive result for Ireland, who led 17-0 after 17 minutes and spent the final 10 minutes of the match under siege from Australia. The Irish were clinical in their execution, as they were a fortnight ago against the Springboks, and thoroughly deserved their victory in front of a passionate crowd at the Aviva Stadium.
The match itself mirrored the defeat the Irish suffered last November against the All Blacks, with the notable exception being their ability to withstand pressure in the final stages. The victory cemented third place in the world rankings and was another statement of intent less than a year out from the World Cup.
Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe crossed for the Irish in a frantic opening period after Jonny Sexton had opened the scoring with a penalty. The scoreline perhaps flattered the hosts, as Bowe's try came courtesy of an intercept with the Wallabies looking certain to capitalise on a three-man overlap.
That try sparked Australia into life, as Nick Phipps – the guilty party in Bowe's try – made the most of some soft Irish defence to race clear and get the Wallabies on the board. The visitors would get their second in fortuitous circumstances as Bernard Foley went over after what looked like a forward pass from Phipps. Referee Glen Jackson and the TMO felt otherwise and the Australians were back within a score.
Ireland seemed intent on testing the aerial abilities of debutant Henry Speight and fullback Israel Folau, with mixed success. It was from a misjudged kick that Australia managed to draw level. The Wallabies got the better of Rob Kearney in the air, and the ball was worked wide to Henry Speight, whose behind-the-back flick found Matt Toomua. The Brumbies flyhalf found Foley, whose deft pass set Phipps free for his second try, as Michael Cheika's influence on the side started to become apparent.
Foley missed with the conversion attempt, but added a penalty five minutes later to give Australia the lead for the first time. Sexton replied with a penalty of his own to send the teams down the tunnel locked-up at 20-20.
After the frenetic pace of the first half, both teams were bound to drop off in the second. The game settled into a Test match rhythm with Ireland using Sexton's educated boot to play the game in the right area of the field. They were rewarded for their territorial advantage as two Sexton penalties either side of another from Foley saw them head into the final 10 minutes with a slim three-point lead.
As time dragged on, it looked inevitable that the Wallabies would find a way to breach the Irish defence, with replacements Will Genia and Quade Cooper calling the shots. However, the Irish showed their resolve, forcing a penalty on the hooter, before booting the ball into touch for another memorable victory.
Ireland – Tries: Simon Zebo, Tommy Bowe. Conversions: Jonathan Sexton (2). Penalties: Sexton (2).
Wallabies – Tries: Nick Phipps (2), Bernard Foley. Conversion: Foley. Penalties: Foley (2).
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Rhys Ruddock, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Felix Jones.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Luke Jones, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Benn Robinson, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Will Genia, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Kurtley Beale.
Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images