Dublin - Irish flyhalf Jonathan Sexton scored 16 points as Ireland edged Australia
26-23 in a thrilling and pulsating test match at Aviva Stadium on Saturday to
give the Six Nations champions a seventh successive victory.
The Wallabies had stormed back from going 17-0 down within the first 20
minutes but two tries by Nick Phipps and one from Bernard Foley got them back
However the Irish, unlike last year against the All Blacks when they lost in
the final minute, held the charging Australians at bay for the final 10 minutes
after two Sexton penalties had edged them back ahead.
It gave the Irish their first double over South Africa - who they beat 29-15
a fortnight ago - and Australia since 2006.
Flanker Peter O'Mahony won Ireland a penalty in the fifth minute and Sexton,
continuing the excellent form from the South Africa match, slotted it over.
The Irish boosted by that turned on the pressure and Australian prop James
Slipper was fortunate to stay on the pitch when he took out Rob Kearney in
midair although referee Glen Jackson awarded only a penalty but Sexton sent it
wide for his first miss in the two Tests.
Sexton, however, showed why he has been nominated for world player of the
year as he produced a sublime tactical kick down the left flank, after Rory
Best had won the ball, which Zebo ran onto and outpaced the Australia defender
to touch down for his fifth try for his country - Sexton converted.
There was more to come as Zebo's fellow wing Tommy Bowe's gamble paid off.
The veteran winger anticipated Nick Phipps's long pass with the Aussies deep
inside Irish territory and the 30-year-old just had the legs to run it back for
his 28th try for Ireland -- Sexton converted for 17-0.
Phipps too redeemed himself as benefitting from an Irish mistake he took the
ball just inside the Irish half, swept aside Best's tackle and had too much
pace for Conor Murray to go in under the posts - Foley converted for 17-7.
The Aussies got within five points of the hosts just after the 20 minute
mark through a highly controversial try to Foley, as Phipps's pass looked to
have gone well forward while the fly-half didn't appear to have grounded the
ball over the line.
However, to the consternation of Ireland captain Paul O'Connell and Kearney
the French Television Match Official Eric Gauzins allowed Jackson to award it -
Foley perhaps unnerved by the wait missed the conversion for his first miss of
There was no disputing the third Wallaby try which was a quite beautiful
team effort, debutant winger Henry Speight doing brilliantly to keep the ball
in play and not go into touch.
The ball eventually came to Matt Toomua, who offloaded superbly to Foley and
he passed inside to Phipps, escaping Murray's attentions, and the 25-year-old
raced in for his fourth try for his country;
Foley having rediscovered his creative side appeared to have lost his
kicking boots as he sent the conversion wide of the posts to leave the sides
tied at 17-17.
The Australian flyhalf, preferred to Quade Cooper throughout the tour, did
send the Wallabies ahead for the first time three minutes from the break as he
converted a penalty from in front of the posts.
Sexton, though, deservedly sent the hosts in level at half-time with a
penalty after an exhilarating opening period.
Sexton and Foley exchanged penalties early in the second-half which also saw
Kurtley Beale make his first appearance since the scandal that saw him heavily
fined for a crude text message to a then member of the Wallabies staff.
It was end to end gripping stuff and Kearney never one to go missing for too
long attempted an outrageous drop goal from just inside the Wallaby half only
for it to come back off a post.
Sexton, shrugging aside several heavy hits by the Wallabies, edged the hosts
into the lead once again with 16 minutes remaining with a long range penalty as
Foley gave way to Quade Cooper.
The Irish were out on their feet but somehow managed to repel wave after
wave of Australian attacks as the clock wound down.Scorers:
Tries: Zebo, Bowe
Conversions: Sexton (2)
Penalties: Sexton (4)
Tries: Phipps (2), Foley
Penalties: Foley 2
15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Rhys Ruddock, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (captain), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath
Substitutes: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Felix Jones
15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridriani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Luke Jones, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper
Substitutes: 16 James Hanson, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Benn Robinson, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Will Genia, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Kurtley Beale