Irish eyes are smiling after claiming their first series win in Australia for 39 years with 20-16 win in Sydney and take the series 2-1.
In front of 44,085 fans, it was a game that had everything to decide the Lansdowne trophy, with yellow cards to both sides and multiple TMO interventions spoiling a good spectacle. Both sides scored one try but it was the boot of Johnny Sexton proving the difference in the end, including a late penalty goal to seal the win.
It was a fast opening ten minutes with the Wallabies enjoying the majority of possession but found themselves behind 3-0 after a penalty from Johnny Sexton.
The Wallabies were mixing up their kicking game tactics early on and brilliant kick from Kurtley Beale earned a five-metre scrum after Rob Kearney was unable to stay in the field of play. They couldn’t get over the line but did settle for a penalty goal from Bernard Foley to level the scores.
The Irish were able to settle into their game and stretched the Wallabies defence out wide at times but it was that man David Pocock who saved the day on a couple of occasions with a series of penalties won.
He would then have to step up as Michael Hooper had to leave the field after just 15 minutes with a hamstring injury with Pete Samu coming on in his place.
The Irish copped the TMO curse in the 21st minute as winger Jacob Stockdale was given a ten-minute rest for an elbow on Nick Phipps whilst in possession and Foley had his second penalty of the game.
Even down a man, Ireland kept hammering the Wallabies line and looked likely to score next with their forwards getting over the gain line too easily but after 17 phases Devin Toner knocked on but they would settle for a second penalty goal from Sexton to make it 6-6.
From the restart there was another TMO intervention as Peter O’Mahony, who had copped a battering from Folau on restarts all game, hit the ground heavily. It was Folau who copped the yellow as his hand knocked him after the initial contest. O’Mahony would leave the game on a stretcher and take no further part in the game after suffering concussion.
Just before the break, the Wallabies had their third penalty from an offside on Conor Murray. From the restart Dane Haylett-Petty was adjudged to knock on under pressure from Rob Kearney with Samu Kerevi picking the ball up in an offside position to give Sexton an easy shot at goal for a 12-9 lead at half time.
Ireland started the second half very well with Johnny Sexton running the show with a brilliant kick into space that had Nick Phipps under pressure. From the resulting play, Adam Coleman was warned after clearing out a ruck as his discipline came under scrutiny of the Pascal Gauzere.
The Irish pack took control off the lineout and rolled the maul over for a well-deserved try to CJ Stander to give Ireland breathing room at 17-9.
That stung the Wallabies into action and it was their turn to run through the phases and be patient with the ball. The Irish was defence was good initially to repel the Wallabies maul and it took some vision and a brilliant grubber kick from Foley to find Koroibete on the right wing as he barged through the covering tackle of Kearney to score. Foley converted to make it a one-point game.
With the finishers coming on, both teams were going at it hard in the last quarter with Taniela Tupou making an impact of the bench with some big hits alongside Tolu Latu in particular. The Irish looked tired but the Wallabies just couldn’t land the killer blow with handling errors letting them down and a missed attempt at penalty goal from Foley keeping the Irish in front.
A late penalty against Latu allowed Johnny Sexton to step up with balls of steel to land a penalty to make it a four-point margin to make the Wallabies needing try to take a series win.
The Wallabies threw one last raid at the Irish but fittingly, the TMO had the final say on this one with a deliberation after the final siren that seemed to take an age before ruling that Stockdale had not knocked the ball down deliberately to send Ireland home 20-16 winners in an anti-climax.
The Game Changer
Towards the back end of the game, the Irish looked tired after a big series but the Wallabies couldn’t take advantage before Sexton’s late penalty.
The G&GR MOTM
CJ Stander got the official award but Johnny Sexton’s second half management was brilliant with his kick to the corner setting up Stander’s try and his late penalty goal sealing the win.
Score & Scorers
Penalties: Foley 3
Penalties: Sexton 5
21 mins – Stockdale (Ireland) –Yellow
30 mins – Folau (Australia) – Yellow
Photos from Peter Mitchell