Ireland claim series win in Australia after edging the Wallabies in dramatic decider
Australia 16 Ireland 20
When you are trying to bridge a gap going back to 1979 then it’s apposite that the last few pieces should be put in place in high drama.
A pulsating Test match played before a record crowd at Allianz Stadium of 44,085 came down to a TMO decision just after the hooter had sounded.
Jacob Stockdale’s left arm was at issue: if it had made contact with a Bernard Foley pass then Australia would have had a penalty roughly 10 metres from the Ireland line with a great chance of getting the try they needed to win. And probably against 14 men.
The TMO said there had been no contact however, and because the hooter had gone Ireland had survived. And survival it was. Having dominated the first half and got some daylight into their lead early in the third quarter they had had to hang on thereafter. And they benefitted from a few big decisions along the way, not least that last one.
So the first ever three game series between the countries goes to Ireland; it was the first series win down here since ’79, and having lost the opener in Brisbane they had to do it the hard way.
It was an utterly absorbing contest, and one try each summed it up. The physicality was massive throughout, especially from the home team when they got their tails up in the last half hour.
But they couldn’t turn it to account. And having been on the wrong end of a tough call against Tolu Latu with a minute of normal time remaining, they had to stand and watch as Johnny Sexton hit a great penalty to put Ireland four points clear forcing the Wallabies to chase a try. And they came up short.
CJ Stander was the man of the match with an epic performance. He laid the groundwork in the first half which was 3-3 before we got into controversial territory when the sin bin came into play.
Each side suffered a yellow card, but neither side could make much headway when they had the advantage of the extra man.
For Ireland, Stockdale was binned at the end of the first quarter for leading with an elbow that caught Nick Phipps full in the throat. It looked more of penalty offence than penalty plus card, but referee Pascal Gauzerre gave him 10 minutes off.
Bernard Foley took three points from the offence with a fine kick to put the home side 6-3 in front. But Ireland coped really well in his absence, drip feeding themselves at every opportunity to slow the game. Keeping possession clinically they managed to work two opportunities for penalty shots on goal.
The first went to Conor Murray – a long distance effort which had more to do with killing time than his chances of success. And the second again featured Murray, this time being taken out by Pete Samu as Ireland strung phases together. Sexton stuck it over for 6-6.
With Stockdale coming back on the field it was Australia’s turn to suffer. Israel Folau was binned for contesting a ball in the air that ended Peter O’Mahony’s night. A World Rugby statement during the week to clarify these mid-air collisions focused on the following: "If a player is not in a realistic position to regather the ball."
So Folau, who looked a good bet to get it, was hard done-by. Off he went and three minutes later they were in trouble when pressure on their line saw a referral upstairs on Murray’s claim that he got the ball against the post. He didn’t.
Foley and Sexton swapped penalties before the break to put Ireland 12-9 ahead, and the tourists opened the second half in similar mode, dominating territory and possession.
Four minutes into that second period they got due reward with a try for CJ Stander. Sexton had nudged a penalty to touch and when Niall Scannell threw perfectly to replacement Jordi Murphy at the tail the maul walked over without issue,
Sexton’s missed conversion left eight points between the teams and it was if the Wallabies were energised by things not being as bad as they could have been. They owned the next 20 minutes, pummelling Ireland when they had the ball and making huge hits when they didn’t.
Eventually Marika Koroibete got over having done tremendously to pick up a Foley nudge and get over. Foley’s conversion left just a point in it and the record crowd were fuelling the next wave of attacks.
Inevitably it brought another penalty – Robbie Henshaw was high on Folau – but Foley couldn’t get the ball between the sticks. When they started to put together errors instead of connections it began to look like the sight of the prize was too much for them. Then Tolu Latu was done for supposedly going off his feet when poaching Sexton. The crowd were losing it, and Sexton nailed the kick to a cacophony of boos. It was nerveless stuff from the captain. A fitting end to a thrilling series.
Australia: I Folau (yc 30-40); D Haylett-Petty, S Kerevi, K Beale, M Koroibete (R Hodge 70); B Foley, N Phipps (J Powell 61); S Sio (T Robertson 62), B Paenga-Amosa (T Latu ht), S Kepu (T Tupou 55), I Rodda (N Hannigan 72), A Coleman (R Simmons 46), L Tui, D Pocock, M Hooper (capt)(P Samu 16)
Ireland: R Kearney (J Larmour 57); K Earls, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Stockdale (yc 21-31); J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath (C Healy 56), N Scannell (R Herring 55), T Furlong (J Ryan 67), D Toner, J Ryan, CJ Stander, J Conan (T Beirne 67), P O’Mahony (Capt) (J Murphy 31)
Referee: P Gauzerre (France)