Following an impressive 18-9 victory for Australia over Ireland in their June opener, here are five takeaways from the match in Brisbane.
Australian defence on point: Led in the blitz by Kurtley Beale, the Wallabies gave Ireland no room to think or move on the gainline. Their backline speed prevented the Irish from executing clean passes and the effectiveness of the Aussie blitz meant Ireland struggled to put any width on their attack, as they were kept tryless throughout.
The Pocock factor: The great flanker was immense. Not only in the number of turnovers gained for his side, or his clearouts created for others, Pocock’s ability to slow the ball down and be a constant niggle in Ireland’s side was the single key factor in Ireland’s inability to put pace onto the ball and made sure that the visitors’ attacks lacked momentum. His try was the icing on the cake in a truly world class performance from the veteran loose forward.
Where’s Johnny?: Just as Beale was key in aligning the Australian defence, so Johnny Sexton’s absence left the Irish alignment and blitz wanting. So often the leader of both defence and attack, Sexton’s absence meant leadership was missing and Ireland’s backs gave far more room to their opponents, which was evident by the relative ease that Australia attacked the Irish flanks.
Precision will please Australia: The Wallabies’ precision was evident from the first kick of the day. They used a clear tactic to kick well and deep into the Irish half, but employed and empowered powerful runners to chase those kicks with the greatest of success. The resulting rucks were a feast from heaven for Pocock and co. and the resulting turnovers speak for themselves.
The inside backs: Australia controlled the game by using Beale as a second receiver. His chip kicks and variety from the 12 shirt kept Ireland’s defence turning and thinking. For Ireland, although Robbie Henshaw strained manfully at 13, Bundee Aki’s inability to offer any form of variety, straight running or passing threat, must be a serious concern for Joe Schmidt’s side as he did little to trouble the Wallabies.
by James While