Ireland edge Wallabies in thriller

Date published: November 25 2014

Ireland claimed their second Southern Hemisphere scalp of the month with a 26-23 victory over Australia in a thrilling clash.

Ireland claimed their second Southern Hemisphere scalp of the month with a 26-23 victory over Australia in a thrilling clash in Dublin on Saturday.

The hosts were outscored three tries to two by the Wallabies but another incredible performance on defence – as was the case against the Springboks – was at the origin of a memorable win.

What a game!

One of the best first-halves of international rugby seen anywhere this year came to an end with the scores locked at 20-all.

It was breathtaking stuff as both sides impressed. Australia’s ability to offload in the tackle kept the ball alive while the hosts’ tactical execution was out of the top drawer.

An amazing first half-hour that featured five tries saw Ireland race to a 17-0 lead inside 15 minutes only for Australia to fight back and draw level.

Irish wings Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe both touched down early on but the Wallabies replied via three tries from half-backs Nick Phipps – who scored twice – and Bernard Foley.

The paced never slowed in the second half – even if the tries stopped flowing – and the game went right down to the wire with the opposing fly-halve exchanging penalties.

Zebo got the hosts off to a perfect start as he raced down the touchline to latch onto Jonathan Sexton’s equally perfect kick ahead to score. It all came thanks to Rory Best ripping the ball away in a choke tackle. Sexton added the conversion to go with an earlier penalty as Ireland led 10-0.

Two minutes later, with Australia looking dangerous, Bowe intercepted a Phipps pass and bolted 80 metres to score. Sexton’s extras made it 17-0 and the Dublin crowd was ready to party.

The mood changed very quickly however as Phipps made amends for his earlier gaff by beating four defenders on a wonderful run off turnover ball to score. Foley converted and the comeback was in full swing.

Australia’s second try come in controversial circumstances as Phipps sent what looked like a distinctly forward pass to Foley, who only just managed to get the tip of the ball onto the whitewash. If Australia hadn’t been given the try, a yellow card was likely after Henry Speight was stopped just short and Irish hands grappled for the ball on the deck.

Foley sent the conversion wide, but at 17-12 the game was alive again.

There was nothing wrong with the Wallabies’ third try though – probably the best of the game – with Matt Toomua and Foley providing wonderful uploads to put Phipps away to level the scores.

Foley’s missed the easy conversion but incredibly could put the visitors in front with penalty as halt-time loomed large.

Sexton replied in kind on the stroke of half-time and it was all-square and anyone game as the teams swapped ends.

Kurtley Beale came on for Tevita Kuridriani early in the second period but the try-scoring dried up to leave Foley and Sexton to exchange three-pointers.

Rob Kearney hit the upright from nearly 50 metres on the angle, but Ireland never really threatened to score another try.

Their work at the breakdown was outstanding though and the home fly-half landed two excellent kicks to put Ireland ahead at 26-23 with 15 minutes left on the clock.

The Wallabies were in full-attack mode in the dying minutes but the Irish defence was rock solid, not giving an inch as they matched their commitment with organisation.

Having lost back-to-back games after last week’s defeat in Paris, Australia must now look to salvage their tour at Twickenham while Ireland finish their November series unbeaten.

Man of the Match: Too many candidates to mention them all but Sexton was outstanding again. Paul O’Connell was immense however, leading by example in a towering defensive display

Moment of the Match: Plenty of highlights but Zebo’s try in the opening minutes typified Ireland’s performance. It was a perfect example of grabbing a half-chance with clinical efficiency and set the tone for the rest of the Irish display

Villain of the Match: If you’re Irish, TMO Eric Gauzins’s interpretation of what constitutes a forward pass is debatable.

The scorers:

For Ireland:
Tries: Zebo, Bowe
Cons: Sexton 2
Pens: Sexton 4

For Australia:
Tries: Phipps 2, Foley
Con: Foley
Pens: 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.
Replacements: 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.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridriani, 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.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Benn Robinson, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Will Genia, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Kurtley Beale.

Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Television match official: Eric Gauzins (France)
Timekeeper: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)