Saturday 19 October 2019

'We're frustrated, that was a tough night at the office'

Australia 18 Ireland 9

Kearney’s drop had put Ireland on the back foot. Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images
Kearney’s drop had put Ireland on the back foot. Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Rob Kearney may have just gotten his breath back after a furious Test match, but he was in philosophical mood all the same as he picked through the bones of Ireland's first loss since March last year.

"Fatigue makes cowards of us all sometimes," he said as he considered his own uncharacteristic lapse in concentration before half-time - one of several moments where key players switched off and cost the team.

There was nothing cowardly about the way the Irish players fronted up in the aftermath of their first defeat in 13, but there was a firm sense of frustration and a willingness to get to Melbourne to begin putting things right ahead of game two.

They know they didn't do themselves justice in the first Test, with Kearney and Robbie Henshaw just two of a host of senior players guilty of atypical errors.

Henshaw, who was one of the players who came in slightly under-cooked after an injury-hit end to the season, was guilty of two defensive misreads that led to Australian line-breaks, the second of which resulted in Bernard Foley's try.

The scenario only came about after Kearney's drop had put Ireland on the back foot.

All of the Irish players who spoke to the media in the aftermath of the loss spoke of the speed of the game, their own accuracy with ball in hand and their need to improve at the ruck.

"Defensively we need to be better," Henshaw said.

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"Missed tackles, myself included… early on, they got some good ball in the air and they beat us in the air a few times which led to them getting in behind us. We need to be more clinical.

"We're frustrated, fit was a tough night at the office.

Rob Kearney of Ireland is tackled. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Rob Kearney of Ireland is tackled. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

"Australia came out firing and they were incredibly physical. We spoke about how they'd be highly emotional and they'd be physical and they'd come hard at us, in particular at the breakdown, and I think we came out second best at the breakdown.

"A few times when we looked like we were going to score we just ended up getting turned over, they disrupted our ball at the base of the ruck.

"There's fix-ups for us and there's learnings that we can take but we definitely needed to be better than that because that didn't match the level that we judge ourselves on. We need to be way better next week."

Peter O'Mahony said it was the fastest match he'd ever played in, yet Ireland dictated the pace for long periods, with Joey Carbery coping well on his biggest start to date.

Bundee Aki of Ireland is tackled. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Bundee Aki of Ireland is tackled. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

They responded well to Foley's well-worked try, and only a superb Dane Haylett-Petty tackle stopped CJ Stander from striking before Carbery made it 9-8 to Ireland with just over 20 minutes remaining.

Unfortunately for the tourists, that was as good as it got.

The TMO denied Israel Folau a try, but the momentum had shifted and a scrum penalty allowed Foley nudge the hosts in front before David Pocock capped a superb night with a close-range try after Michael Hooper had turned down a kickable penalty to go for the jugular.

The experience was not enjoyable, but Kearney believes it will stand to the touring team.

"They played good rugby," he said. "They played with good width, they were creative, strong in contact. They had a few opportunities where we probably slipped off a little, in terms of our intensity.

"We were back in the game when it was 9-8 to us and just a few key moments went against us. They had that tap and go for that last try and that was it.

"It shows how difficult it is to go 12 games unbeaten.

"We are back to zero now. We have got to go again, some guys won't have experienced a Test match like that, that is for sure.

"That is what these summer tours are about, playing these great teams; ultimately the World Cup is our goal and you have got to get the very best out of yourself when you play the best from around the world."

For their part, Australia are expecting an Irish backlash.

"The Irish will be coming back hungry, keen to get the result. We understand the job's not over yet," the outstanding Kurtley Beale said.

"It's time to recover and make sure we're in the best position to get the win next week. The series isn't over yet, the group's fully aware of that.

"Will Genia got us together after the game and made sure that we enjoyed the win, but the focus quickly switched to Melbourne."

Australia - I Folau; D Haylett-Petty (R Hodge 63), S Kerevi, K Beale, M Koroibete; B Foley, W Genia (N Phipps 75); S Sio (T Robertson 63), B Paenga-Amosa (T Latu 55), S Kepu (T Tupou 55); I Rodda (R Simmons 55), A Coleman; D Pocock (L Tui 74), M Hooper (capt), C Timu (P Samu 49-59, 63).

Ireland - R Kearney; K Earls (J Larmour 25), R Henshaw, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Carbery (J Sexton 57), C Murray (K Marmion 78); J McGrath (C Healy 48), R Herring (S Cronin 57), John Ryan (T Furlong 48); I Henderson (Q Roux 65), James Ryan; P O'Mahony (capt) J Conan 68), J Murphy, CJ Stander.

Ref - M van der Westhuizen (South Africa)


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