Bundee Aki scored on his return from suspension to help Ireland beat Australia 13-10 and secure a record-equalling 12th home Test win in Dublin on Saturday despite missing captain Johnny Sexton.
A late penalty by Ross Byrne separated the two sides in a dramatic climax to a match littered with errors at the Aviva Stadium. Sexton had been ruled out shortly before the teams came out having injured his calf in the warm-up.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the win,” said Ireland coach Andy Farrell. “We found a way and that’s what good sides do when they’re not at their best.
“We weren’t at our best for all sorts of reasons, things that we can address. We found a bit of luck but we came out on the right side and we roll onto the Six Nations.”
For Australia it was a third successive narrow defeat on tour, having lost by a point both to France and then in a first defeat to Italy.
“100% put pride back in the jersey after the Italy defeat,” Australian wing Mark Nawaqanitawase told Amazon. “We’re definitely gutted. We got ourselves in the right position there.
“Discipline has been one of the things we’re working on and obviously it’s hurt us again; as a result, we’ve come so close.”
Completing a November clean sweep! ✅
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 19, 2022
Sexton’s replacement at flyhalf, Jack Crowley, struck a penalty to give the hosts the lead after a nervy opening.
The Wallabies looked the most dangerous of the teams when they had possession, but superb Irish defence kept the Australians at bay.
However, Ireland then let the Australians off the hook by conceding a penalty inside the visitors 22, referee Ben O’Keeffe telling both captains that another tackle round the neck would result in a yellow card.
O’Keeffe’s warning fell on deaf ears with Folau Fainga’a, who got Josh van der Flier round the neck, and was shown the yellow card without too much standing on ceremony four minutes from the break.
The second half took a while to warm up and Foley levelled the match 15 minutes in, but he Irish finally put an incisive attack together, with Aki rounding it off. Crowley converted for 10-3 with just over 12 minutes remaining.
The visitors, though, hit back as Petaia went on his own and touched down and Foley added the extras.
Ireland retook the lead when Ross Byrne, who had come on for Crowley, kept his nerve and landed a penalty with less than four minutes to play.
Australia coach Dave Rennie bemoaned that the Wallabies conceded too many penalties (12), with defeat putting even more pressure on him with just four wins in 16 Tests since the beginning of November 2021.
“It’s frustrating because a number of those happened when we were in attacking positions,” Rennie said. “We’ll put out a good side next week [against Wales] and look to finish on a positive note.”
© Agence France-Presse