Australia got back on the horse on Saturday – but it was far from a fluent performance in 22-15 victory over Ireland at Suncorp Stadium.
Australia got back on the Test horse on Saturday – but it was far from an impressive showing in a 22-15 win over Ireland at Suncorp Stadium.
This talented group of Wallabies certainly had plenty of unwanted questions that were needing to be answered after that ldefeat to England in Sydney. And this stuttering performance failed to turn captain Rocky Elsom's frown upside down.
That was because it was Ireland who came out of the blocks the stronger as they looked to avoid a run of five-straight defeats, which all began at Croke Park against Six Nations rivals Scotland.
That air of desperation seemed to help the Irish cause though, with Jonathan Sexton following on from his kicking effort against the New Zealand Maori with another strong effort eight days on.
Despite the Leinster back's solidity from the tee that saw him score fifteen points that all came before the break, Ireland probably should have had themselves a decent cushion had they not handed Luke Burgess a gift of a try with a quarter gone. The charitable mood then continued right on the hooter when Quade Cooper slipped Niall Ronan and Shane Jennings to take the wind out of Ireland's sails.
Had they not coughed up those ten points during the first 40, the tourists would have had themselves a healthy 6-15 lead in what was a warm-up for this duo's Pool clash in World Cup 2011. However, many of those expected to occupy the stage in Auckland were not in attendance today due to injury, so neither will take much from events that transpired.
Both sides had hinted at an attacking approach to the game, but it was not until late in the second half that either backline was able to find real space.
For the Australians, skipper Elsom was typically strong, but Drew Mitchell and Kurtley Beale missed an opportunity to impress in the backs.
After trailing for the majority of the first half, the Wallabies snatched a 16-15 lead going into the break, courtesy of Cooper's attacking flair. The Reds star created something from nothing as he danced his way through an invisible gap well after the siren.
Earlier, the Australians had first use of the ball, but it was the Irish who had first points on the board when Sexton sunk a penalty in the second minute, after Cooper was judged offside by referee Bryce Lawrence.
The chance to level the scores came just minutes later for the Aussies, but after a scratchy performance with the boot against England last weekend it appeared Matt Giteau's radar was still out and his kick from right in front sailed left of the uprights.
An intercept from Rob Horne was called back for a knock-on, but from the scrum Luke Burgess made it second time lucky with an intercept of his own to run in the first try of the match and give the Wallabies their lead for the first time.
The Wallabies were forced to shuffle their backline with the resumption of the second half, sending Beale to fullback, Adam Ashley-Cooper to centre and James O'Connor to the wing, after their starting outside centre Horne was forced out with a gluteal strain.
Unfortunately for Beale, his first significant contribution for the Australians was not a good one; with space out wide and the try line almost within reach, the Waratahs star opted for to send in a grubber that steamed over the backline.
Play was eventually called back and Giteau registered his first successful kick of the match to give the Wallabies first blood in the second half.
As the contest began to open up for the first time, the Wallaby backline showed signs of clicking into gear but, once again, a penalty conceded by the Irish close to the line ensured the points continued to accumulate in threes.
The Australians continued to attack in the late stages of the second half, but regular handling mistakes stopped them from increasing the lead in the low-scoring second half.
Man-of-the-match: Few stood out but the effort from Mick O'Driscoll needs to be rewarded. His coolness under pressure led an inexperienced pack that more than held its own.
Moment-of-the-match: The forced pass from number eight Chris Henry that Luke Burgess gobbled up before scoring cost Ireland. A painful lesson on debut.
Tries: Burgess, Cooper
Pen: Cooper 2, Giteau 2
Pen: Sexton 5
Australia: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (c), 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 James Slipper, 18 Mitchell Chapman, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Josh Valentine, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Kurtley Beale.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (c), 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 Chris Henry, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Niall Ronan, 5 Mick O'Driscoll, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Tom Court, 18 Dan Tuohy, 19 Rhys Ruddock, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Geordan Murphy.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Chris Pollock (New Zealand)