Thursday 23 May 2019

'Tough to watch that' - Joe Schmidt on excruciating TMO finale as Irish history makers clinch series win

Johnny Sexton, Bundee Aki and Jordi Murphy celebrate victory over Australia at Allianz Stadium, Sydney yesterday. Photo: Cameron Spencer
Johnny Sexton, Bundee Aki and Jordi Murphy celebrate victory over Australia at Allianz Stadium, Sydney yesterday. Photo: Cameron Spencer
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Ireland turned a dodgy start into winning finish in front of a record crowd for Sydney's Allianz Stadium of 44,085 to make history by winning the first ever three-Test series with Australia. It was their first series win here since the 2-0 success of 1979.

The bad start to preparations started when the squad arrived 25 minutes late to the venue because the team bus took a different route to avoid an LGBT march in the city centre. Given the controversial position of Wallaby Israel Folau on the gay community it was an ironic turn of events. But despite having their warm-up curtailed Ireland managed to score first and last in an absorbing Test match, which they won 20-16. "It took just over 13 minutes to get here yesterday and just over 30 today," Schmidt said afterwards.

The coach was visibly hyped during the warm-up, perhaps given Ireland's history in this area.

"It's happened to us before, and we kind of got knocked off our stride and went down 21-5 or something at half-time against Scotland a couple of years ago," he said. "It's good for the team, there are always things that are going to come at you from different sides.

"Sometimes that sort of thing happens, you have got to be able to take it in your stride. Most teams have a real rhythm in how they build to a game, when that gets disrupted it can be a little bit of a distraction."

Ireland also had to overcome the loss of captain Peter O'Mahony in the first half when he failed a HIA, after landing with a thump having been challenged in the air by Folau. Australia also lost their captain Michael Hooper in the first half.

The win completes a uniquely successful season for Ireland, with a Grand Slam followed by Leinster's European and Pro14 double, and now this.

"It's big for us because we don't do that very often - it was 39 years ago [since 1979]," Schmidt said. "I did have a good chat to a couple of the guys who did it last time. Ollie Campbell is a guy I've got huge respect for. We had a bit of a chat about it. He's such an enthusiast and his confidence was brimming that we could do it.

"I didn't quite share the confidence at the time because I knew how tough it was going to be and that was evident in those final minutes, not just tonight but last weekend as well."

Ireland had to survive huge tension at the finish when the TMO ruled in their favour in an incident where Jacob Stockdale - who had been yellow-carded earlier in the game - appeared to have knocked the ball forward.

"Tough, tough to watch that," Schmidt admitted of the final few minutes. "They just kept coming wave after wave. They were super in that second half and it was a super effort from our guys to hang on in and keep them out. With the speed they came on to the ball it was really hard to keep them off our advantage line, so once they started getting that momentum they were even harder to contain. It's a credit to our guys for hanging in there and it is probably a credit to the Wallabies, because they did a fantastic job of carrying incredibly well."

CJ Stander was the man of the match with Ireland's only try. He showed consistently well through a series that sets Ireland up perfectly for their World Cup campaign next season. The win also whets the appetite for the clash with New Zealand later in the year.

"It was an incredibly tough game against Australia as always," said O'Mahony. "It was great from the lads. It's been a long time since we won over here. To win back-to-back is incredibly difficult. Brilliant Australia, they were three incredible Tests. I'm very proud of the lads."

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