Ireland claimed another big southern hemisphere scalp with a 27-24 victory over Australia in Dublin on Saturday.
Ireland continued their upswing in form, while inconsistency continued to hurt the Wallabies, suffering their first defeat on the end-of-year tour.
In the end, three points separated the sides at the final whistle, but Ireland picked Australia’s defence apart with such ease that it could have been much worse for Michael Cheika’s men had the hosts converted all their chances.
In a game of contrasting halves, Ireland perforated the opposition defence in the first 40 minutes, but the Wallabies turned the tables with a considerably improved performance after the break, and yet came up short.
Without the services of talisman Johnny Sexton, Ireland’s second-in-command flyhalf Paddy Jackson was at the top of his game, as was young centre Garry Ringrose.
The Wallabies failed to fire during the early exchanges as Ireland dominated proceedings and pinned the visitors back inside their 22.
An impressive 17-phase attack resulted in a penalty, but Ireland declined the points on offer, regrettably, as Australia shunted their attack at the lineout. The same sequence was replayed in the 10th minute, but again the Wallabies survived the immediate danger close to their line. Jackson was then commanded to break the deadlock with a long-range penalty. And when Aussie flank Dean Mumm was yellow-carded for a dangerous cleanout, Ireland pounced.
Replacement fullback Simon Zebo unlocked the Wallabies defence with a grubber, wing Keith Earls gathered the ball and lock Iain Henderson finished off a sublime try. And soon Ringrose added to the Wallabies’ woes with a devastating run to score his first Test try for a healthy 17-0 lead.
Ireland easily stopped any Wallaby attack with their rush defence and perfect execution of the choke tackle. But as the clock ticked towards half-time, a rare linebreak and foray into the 22, saw wing Dane Haylett-Petty score from close quarters.
The little momentum swing aided Australia, who started to get the upper hand up front. David Pocock and Michael Hooper finally started to trouble Ireland at the breakdown and backline players made more linebreaks. With their new-found vigour, Australia scored two quick tries and a Foley-nailed penalty to lead 24-20.
But in the 66th minute, Earls broke away to grab the match-winning try and Jackson slotted the touchline conversion to get Ireland back to victory land.
Ireland – Tries: Iain Henderson, Garry Ringrose, Keith Earls. Conversions: Paddy Jackson (3). Penalties: Jackson (2).
Wallabies – Tries: Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Sefanaia Naivalu. Conversions: Foley (3). Penalty: Foley.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Garry Ringrose, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Simon Zebo.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs (one to be omitted): 16 Tolu Latu, 17 James Slipper, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Sean McMahon, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Quade Cooper, 24 Sefanaia Naivalu.
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