The Wallabies sunk to a second straight defeat on their northern hemisphere tour, pipped 26-23 by Ireland in a Dublin thriller. Australia scored three tries to two after trailing 17-0 early, but the boot of Johnny Sexton guided the hosts to victory.
Flyhalf Sexton put the Four Nations champs on the board early with a penalty, then kicked brilliantly for a spectacular try to winger Simon Zebo in the 11th minute. Ireland went out to an imposing 17-point advantage soon afterwards when their other winger, Tommy Bowe, snaffled a long pass by Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps and streaked 80 metres to score.
It was effectively a 14-point turnaround – if Phipps’ pass had got outside Bowe, Australia had a three unmarked men with a clear path to the try-line.
But the Waratahs No.9 set about atoning, tearing the Irish defence apart for the remainder of the half. After scoring a dazzling 50-metre individual try, Phipps sent Bernard Foley over from close range, then Foley returned the favour, delivering a pass for the trailing Phipps to bag his second.
The scores were locked 20-all at halftime after Foley and Sexton exchanged penalties, but in a grinding second stanza, Sexton’s two penalties to Foley’s one edged Ireland to a rare victory over the green-and-golds.
Bad boy Kurtley Beale made a solid return off the bench for Australia, playing most of the second half and being denied a potentially match-winning try when a pass from Matt Toomua, who was outstanding for the Wallabies, was ruled forward.
All Blacks’ late flurry denies Wales
A four-try burst in the final quarter propelled New Zealand to a 34-16 win over Wales. The world champs were held to a 3-all scoreline at halftime of their last Test of 2014, stymied by magnificent Welsh defence. But the brilliant hands of Conrad Smith saw Julian Savea break the tryscoring impasse in the 43rd minute, the big winger crossing in the corner after a barnstorming charge.
Wales dug in though, and halfback Rhys Webb locked up the scores again with a try shortly afterwards. Despite a wonderful try to Jerome Kaino – set up by Beauden Barrett’s cross-field kick and another assist from Smith – Wales led 16-15 with 13 minutes to go after Leigh Halfpenny slotted his third penalty.
But Barrett, who was switched to fullback when Colin Slade entered the match, scored a breathtaking chip-and-chase try to stun the hosts, before Kieran Read bagged a try from a charge-down and Barrett nabbed his second when Ben Smith batted back a Slade kick.
The hard-fought win was a fitting result in Richie McCaw’s 100th Test as captain, while it extended Wales’ winless run against the All Blacks to 61 years. The icing on the cake for New Zealand came in the form of outstanding lock Brodie Retallick being named the IRB Player of the Year.
Ireland 26 d. Australia 23 at Dublin
New Zealand 34 d. Wales 16 at Cardiff
Argentina 18 d. France 13 at Paris
England 28 d. Samoa 9 at London
Scotland 37 d. Tonga 12 at Kilmarnock
South Africa 22 d. Italy 6 at Padova
Fiji 20 d. USA 14 at Vannes
Romania 18 d. Canada 9 at Bucharest
Portugal 29 d. Namibia 20 at Lisbon