Ireland held their nerve to edge Australia 26-23 at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday continuing the Six Nations Champions’ unbeaten run at home in 2014. The Wallabies came back from an early 17-0 Irish lead to be locked at 20-20 at half time as Ireland started the match brilliantly. The Australians will now travel to London to play England at Twickenham in the final match between the two sides before next year’s Rugby World Cup clash in Pool A.
The match started at a frenetic pace as the Aussies looked to go wide early in attack as the Australian backs tested the Irish defence. Jonathan Sexton gave Ireland a 3-0 lead early in the match with a successful penalty conversion after Australia infringed at the breakdown. A turnover off Wallaby lock Luke Jones in his second Test for Australia gave Ireland a counter attacking opportunity with a kick in behind Australia’s defence.
Winger Simon Zebo raced forward to successfully collect the ball and score in the corner. The Wallabies attempted to counter quickly as the score reached 10-0 but a rapid Wallaby attack in Ireland’s defensive zone went disastrously as Irish centre Tommy Bowe rushed out of his line to intercept the ball and run 80 metres to score. Ireland extended its lead to 17-0 as the Wallabies were left to collect their thoughts.
The Australians were finally able to work their way into the match after Nick Phipps broke through the Green defence to score underneath the posts. A successful conversion from Bernard Foley brought the score to 17-7 in favour of the home nation. The Aussies continued to earn some possession and territory as the forwards muscled up in the contest.
Australia scored in the corner after a cross field kick from Foley went into the arms of Test debutant Henry Speight. Speight was caught just short of the line but Nick Phipps popped a pass to his fly half allowing Foley to score. The kick was missed but the Wallabies were finally able to find some momentum as the score moved to 17-12 in favour of Ireland.
Australia’s third try came through some excellent ball movement between the Wallaby forwards and backs as a string of pop passes kept the ball alive and the Irish defence retreating which allowed Foley and Phipps to combine for Phipps’ second try. Foley missed the conversion leaving the scores locked at 17-17. Both sides traded penalties before the end of the first half, leaving the scores at 20-20 at the break. The break was kinder to Ireland as they were able to regain the lead with Irish flyhalf, Jonathan Sexton kicking his team to 23 points to Australia’s 20 after the Wallabies were penalised at the breakdown.
The battle of the flyhalfs continued as Foley responded with a successful penalty conversion of his own after the Wallabies scrum placed too much pressure on the Irish pack leaving the score at 23-23. The second half continued to be a struggle for both teams as each side attempted to wrestle the upper hand. In the 64th minute, Ireland got this opportunity with Sexton again successfully kicking a penalty taking the score to 26-23 in favour of Ireland.
For the second week in a row the Australians had all the momentum in the final moments of the match as Australia advanced with wave after wave of successful phases. Ultimately Ireland was able to be passionate and an isolated Australian player allowed Ireland to get a penalty and escape the Australian attack as the full time siren echoed around the packed stadium. The Aussies will now regroup and head to London to take on England.