Australia v Ireland in 60 seconds
AUSTRALIA 21 IRELAND 26
Ireland scored their first victory in Australia since 1979 with this well deserved victory but they needed a last-ditch defensive effort to do so despite dominating possession and territory.
A late yellow card for Jack McGrath with the score 26-14 was punished by a try from fellow replacement prop Taniela Tupou, converted by Bernard Foley set up a grandstand finish at AAMI Park with Ireland’s 14 men hanging on for dear life and forcing a knock-on from Samu Kerevi just as the full-time hooter sounded.
Ireland levelled the Test series to take this duel with the Wallabies into a final rubber in Sydney next Saturday and did so with a vastly improved team performance after a chastening week of putting right the wrongs of the first game in Brisbane.
Ireland negated the impact of David Pocock and Michael Hooper at the breakdown while the return of Johnny Sexton gave the tourists an unparalleled game manager as Ireland controlled this game for long periods after the shock of leaking a try inside two minutes.
Tadhg Furlong scored a try and made some hard yards carrying in open play as the tighthead prop roared to life on his return to the front row and was a merited man of the match, yet there were plenty of other standout performances from the Irish side, including the returning Sexton at fly-half, captain Peter O’Mahony and the rest of the Irish pack.
Three yellow cards, 27 penalties and a penalty try, New Zealand’s Paul Williams was front and centre in this contest throughout.
He was harsh to award a penalty try against Ireland’s Cian Healy for pulling down a maul on the visitors’ line. It was Australia’s first assault on the line and Williams appeared trigger happy as ran under the posts to award seven points, particularly as the Wallabies had caused him most trouble, conceding seven penalties in the first half.
Williams yellow-carded Healy for the offence in the 27th minute, following an earlier sin-binning for Australia wing Marika Koroibete after he spear-tackled Rob Kearney in the sixth minute.
Jack McGrath will have no complaints for a deliberate knock-on as his arm poked out of a ruck four minutes from time although Bernard Foley had escaped similar punishment for the same offence in open play.
It all made for a scrappy evening’s entertainment as Ireland followed the Wallabies in reaching double figures for the third game in succession.
Penalties conceded: Australia 15 Ireland 12
Ireland lost try-scorer Andrew Conway soon after he had struck in the right corner, the wing failing to shake off what appeared to be an ankle injury and departing in the 14th minute.
Then the Wallabies lost scrum-half Will Genia to a serious-looking forearm injury after 27 minutes, while lock Adam Coleman lasted two minutes into the second half before suffering a head knock.
Just 80 minutes separate the Ireland players and a well-earned holiday as the end of the 2017-18 campaign reaches its conclusion in Sydney next Saturday, where Joe Schmidt’s squad meet the Wallabies for one last time at Allianz Stadium (11:05am Irish time) with the series still alive after this rousing win.
Ireland’s summer series in Australia will come down to a winner-takes-all finale in Sydney next week after the tourists secured a first away win in Australia in exactly 39 years.
With big hitters like Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong back in the starting XV following the 18-9 first Test reversal, Joe Schmidt’s Six Nations champions produced some of their best rugby of the season as they over-powered the Wallabies at the breakdown, where captain Peter O’Mahony was immense.
Both sides will count the cost of this bruising encounter in the coming days after a host of players were forced off injured, but they will have to do it again in seven days’ time and Ireland have the wind in their sails after tries from Andrew Conway and Furlong and a 16-point haul from Sexton saw them home 26-21 in front of an attendance of 29,018.
Australia started like an express train in Melbourne and were ahead inside two minutes as Bernard Foley wrong-footed Dan Leavy and sent Kurtley Beale through a big gap. The centre rounded Rob Kearney to touch down under the posts.
Foley nailed the conversion but the momentum shifted back Ireland’s way when winger Marika Koroibete was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle on Kearney.
Sexton put the ball in the corner for his forwards to maul and, after an initial shove, Conor Murray exploited the man advantage by floating it wide to Conway who scored in the corner.
Sexton levelled with the touchline conversion and added a penalty earned by a dominant scrum effort in front of the posts.
He added another after O’Mahony forced a breakdown infringement and also punished Caleb Timu’s deliberate knock-to make it 16-7.
Having promised to fix their own discipline woes after the first Test, though, Ireland conceded three penalties in quick succession to allow Australia back into it.
Furlong went off his feet at an attacking ruck, before Devin Toner played an opponent in the air to allow Foley to kick to the corner. Once there, the Wallabies turned the screw and earned a penalty try as Cian Healy was shown a yellow card for his illegal attempts at stopping the maul.
Ireland survived their 10 minutes without Healy and might have even extended their lead if Furlong had spotted Garry Ringrose on his shoulder after making an impressive break, but they had to be content with a 16-14 lead at the interval.
A physical game saw both coaches go to their replacements early but Ireland handled the disruption better and went on the attack, with Keith Earls scything through the defence from a superb Sexton pass.
Jack McGrath and Earls were denied tries by marginal decisions, but both times play came back for Irish penalties and after Sexton kicked to the corner, they finally got their reward as Furlong powered through Nick Phipps’ tackle to score.
Sexton converted but Ireland were made to sweat for their win as McGrath saw yellow and Taniela Tupou forced his way over from close range.
Foley converted to make it a five-point game with less than two minutes remaining but despite finishing with a makeshift team, the visitors held on.