Auckland - Ireland won the high-stakes battle
with Australia to go top of Pool C and close in on a Rugby World Cup
quarter-final berth with a tenacious 15-6 win at Eden Park on Saturday.
fighting Irish won the tactical battle and hustled the world number two
Wallabies out of their rhythm with determined defence and judicious
kicking in conducive wet conditions.
It was Ireland's first win
over the Wallabies in five World Cup encounters and comes after they
were twice beaten at the World Cup by a point in 1991 and 2003. Once
again they rose to the occasion of the underdog against Australia.
win takes Ireland to eight points in their pool, three ahead of the
Wallabies with two matches to play, but it was a huge psychological blow
for one of the fancied tournament teams.
It was a triumph for
Brian O'Driscoll's Irish team, who went into the match in indifferent
form and with questions about whether they could stay with the Wallabies
over the 80 minutes.
But the Wallabies in the end had no answer
to the relentless pressure the Irish exerted on them and playmakers
Quade Cooper and Will Genia were subdued by swarming defenders.
pre-match withdrawals of hooker Stephen Moore and openside flank David Pocock were also keenly felt, with their replacements Tatafu
Polota-Nau and Ben McCalman not measuring up on the occasion.
Ronan O'Gara came off the reserves bench to kick two crucial penalties and further increase his Irish record to 1,039 points.
A near capacity 58,678 crowd generated a crackling atmosphere as both teams ripped into each other in the opening stages.
Kurtley Beale was prominent, spectacularly regathering his own high
kick to put the Wallabies on the front foot before James O'Connor landed
an 11th minute penalty.
The Irish equalised through flyhalf
Jonathan Sexton's penalty after Rocky Elsom had been penalised and hit
the front minutes later through a Sexton drop goal.
forwards forced three turnovers, particularly on centre Pat McCabe
carrying the ball too high into contact as the Wallaby scrum came under
Ireland enjoyed more territory and had Wallaby
scrumhalf Genia under constant pressure upsseting Australia's rhythm
and ball flow to the backline.
O'Connor levelled with his second
penalty, but the Irish finished the half the better with blindside
flank Stephen Ferris picking up Genia and driving him backwards 15m
after an untidy Wallaby scrum win.
Sexton kicked Ireland to the front 9-6 after James Horwill was offside in a ruck eight minutes after the interval.
O'Gara came on and kicked a crucial penalty to put the Irish six points ahead with 18 minutes left.
Australians had to defend for their lives after a high kick put the
Wallabies under pressure on their own try-line but they held firm.
Irish kept cranking up the pressure in the rain and prop Cian Healy
forced the Australian front row to go down and get a crucial penalty.
O'Gara slotted it over to give the Irish a nine-point lead with the Australians losing all the key plays.
Wallabies' big chance came seven minutes in a rare attacking raid but
centre Anthony Fainga'a pass to winher Adam Ashley-Cooper went sailing
into touch and the chance was gone.
Irish winger Tommy Bowe almost
scored the only try of the match with an 80m intercept two minutes from
time but was chased down by O'Connor five metres from the try-line.