A electrifying second half resurgence hasn’t been enough to keep Australia’s hopes of a Grand Slam alive after a 24-27 defeat to a spirited Ireland at Aviva Stadium.
The home side starved the Wallabies of possession in the first half, holding the ball for over 80% of the time. Adding to that, over three-quarters of the opening stanza was played in the Australians’ half as Ireland raced out to a 17-0 lead.
A stunner on the stroke of half time to Dane Hayley-Petty, and two futher tries would give the Wallabies the lead midway through the second half, but a 66th minute try to Ireland winger Keith Earls proved to be the match-winner in a superb contest.
The Irish were first on the scoresheet when giant lock Iain Henderson barged over after the Wallabies were reduced to 14 men when Dean Mumm was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle.
Ireland’s second try was straight out of the playbook of their legendary former skipper, Brian O’Driscoll, although this time it was Leinster youngster Garry Ringrose who slipped under a tackle and powered his way through a pack of Wallabies defenders close to the line to slam it down for another five-pointer.
With an extraordinary weight of possession against them, the Wallabies desperately needed a spark before half time and it came in the most spectacular fashion from a lineout win just inside their own half.
In a rehearsed backline move which the Aussies have used to great effect on tour, once again it was a short ball from Foley to a charging Reece Hodge which snapped the defensive line before the ball moved through the hands of support players Michael Hooper, Israel Folau and Haylett-Petty, with the latter finishing off under the posts.
With that wonderful strike, the Irish lead was cut to ten points at 17-7 but all the momentum was with the Wallabies coming out of the break.
The men in gold pressed immediately but a final pass from Pocock to Henry Speight was ruled forward with the line open in the 42nd minute.
Three minutes later, they attacked the same corridor and this time weren’t to be denied as Tevita Kuridrani notched his fourth try in as many Tests on the tour, dotting down after the ball was spread wide through the hands after the Wallabies had built 11 phases of attack.
David Pocock was called for not rolling away to offer Ireland a gift three points to relieve the pressure and extend their lead to six points a short time later.
Pocock tried to atone for the penalty immediately, snatching a pass from Irish half Conor Murray and sending the ball through the hands out wide again, only for the play to break down on a final pass from Folau which found the grass.
A short time later however, using the width of the field this time on the right, replacement back Sefa Naivalu charged on to a pass from Hodge through a huge hole in the Irish defence to register Australia’s third try for the day. Naivalu had been on the field for just over a minute, after replacing Speight.
Another Foley conversion gave the Wallabies their first lead in the match, and a penalty goal five minutes later padded the lead out to 24-20 at the midpoint of the second half.
But from there the momentum shifted again. Mumm was caught again for a high shot to put Ireland back on the attack deep in Australia’s half with a lineout win from the penalty. After working it to mid-field, two long cut-out balls back to the left presented an open tryline for Ireland winger Keith Earls to dot down and regain the lead for his team.
Both sides threw everything at it in the dying stages, Ireland feeling the pressure as injuries began to mount, but there would be no more scoring in a throughly entertaining and absorbing battle.
The match ended in frustration for the visitors with Bernard Foley shown a yellow card and a scrum penalty on the final play extinguishing hopes of a Wallabies Grand Slam.
The Qantas Wallabies will conclude their 2016 Spring Tour with a clash against England at Twickeham Stadium next Sunday morning (1.30am AEDT).
How it happened:
18 mins: Paddy Jackson pen AUS 0-3 IRE
24 mins: Iain Henderson try, Paddy Jackson con AUS 0-10 IRE
34 mins: Garry Ringrose try, Paddy Jackson con AUS 0-17 IRE
40 mins: Dane Haylett-Petty try, Bernard Foley con AUS 7-17 IRE
46 mins: Tevita Kuridrani try, Bernard Foley con AUS 14-17 IRE
50 mins: Paddy Jackson pen AUS 14-20 IRE
56 mins: Sefanaia Naivalu try, Bernard Foley con AUS 21-20 IRE
61 mins: Bernard Foley pen AUS 24-20 IRE
66 mins: Keith Earls try, Paddy Jackson con AUS 24-27 IRE
Ireland 27 (Iain Henderson, Garry Ringrose, Keith Earls tries; Paddy Jackson 3 cons; 2 pens)defeated Australia 24 (Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Sefanaia Naivalu tries; Bernard Foley 3 cons; pen)
Via ARU Media