Ireland shock lifeless Wallabies

17th Sep 2011, 20:23

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Second best: Australia

Second best: Australia

Ireland produced the first major upset of Rugby World Cup 2011 after stunning Australia 15-6 at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.

Ireland scored the first major upset of RWC 2011 after stunning Australia 15-6 at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.

There is no hiding the fact that a poor Wallabies side came off second best to the Irish as their key players were superbly contained by a side who in Brian O'Driscoll's words 'dug deep into the well'.

Ireland love silencing the critics - as they have done so many times in the past in such one-off games - and they did just that in a team effort that was spearheaded by loosehead prop Cian Healy.

Healy was the heartbeat of an Irish scrum that helped the underdogs claim the majority of their points, while Sean O'Brien, Stephen Ferris and Paul O'Connell chipped in with strong showings.

But for Australia there are some harsh lessons to learn from this shock defeat, not least why their playmaking duo of Will Genia and Quade Cooper were seemingly absent for most of the game.

Cooper looked disinterested in Auckland while his centre combination of Pat McCabe and Anthony Faingaa struggled to make any impact outside him. Kurtley Beale was the only shining light for the Wallabies, who now look like joining New Zealand and South Africa in the tougher side of the knockout draw. England and France must be licking their lips.

The day started badly and ultimately got worse for the Wallabies when vital openside flanker David Pocock and hooker Stephen Moore both pulled out of the game injured before kick-off.

It would only have been human of Irish fans to sense an opening for a shock result and their team duly delivered, despite going 0-3 down on 12 minutes to a James O'Connor penalty.

Jonathan Sexton, who had another hot-and-cold night with the boot, sent over a levelling penalty four minutes later and then knocked Ireland ahead with a drop to cap a good spell.

O'Connor was also struggling to find his range though before a moment that summed up Australia's troubles occurred. Genia was under pressure at the base of a scrum and upon picking up the ball he was met and driven back ten metres by Ulster back-row Ferris.

The neutral promptly knew that the game could go either way as the confidence in the Irish camp continued to grow, despite O'Connor levelling matters on 24 minutes. That was how things stayed until the break when there were no doubt choice words from Robbie Deans.

It was to no avail as Ireland continued to win the tight exchanges and mini-battles in the engine room and midfield, with James Horwill becoming increasingly frustrated as he gave away another three at a ruck on 50 minutes. Ireland were in front again and looking calm.

Then came a moment that many thought would make or break this game as Gordon D'Arcy hobbled off and was replaced by Ronan O'Gara. Sexton subsequently shifted out to inside centre and it worked superbly for Declan Kidney's side, with the duo pinning back the Wallabies and O'Gara ultimately adding six more points for a memorable 15-6 victory.

Man of the match: Little doubt about this one as Cian Healy was at the heart of this victory. He made Ben Alexander's life miserable at Eden Park and kicked on from Tom Court's scrum performance last week. Mentions too for Sean O'Brien and Paul O'Connell.

Moment of the match: Ireland fans must have been licking their lips when news broke that Stephen Moore and David Pocock had withdrawn from the game injured. Would they have made a difference? Pocock definitely as Ben McCalman struggled to have any impact.

Villain of the match: Nothing to report.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Pen: O'Connor 2

For Ireland:
Pen: Sexton 2, O'Gara 2
Drop: Sexton

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Anthony Fainga'a, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Ben McCalman, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Dan Vickerman, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Drew Mitchell.

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (c), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O'Connell, 5 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Conor Murray, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Andrew Trimble.

Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Dave Pearson (England), Stuart Terheege (England)
Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)

By Adam Kyriacou