Ireland 13 Australia 10
A late Ross Byrne penalty snatched victory for Ireland over Australia in the last November International at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening in what was an extremely attritional affair.
The late withdrawal of Ireland captain Johnny Sexton who was replaced by Munster’s Jack Crowley was a huge talking point early doors. It put huge pressure on the shoulders of the young Innishannon out-half, in what was easily the biggest game of his fledgling career.
Australia started brightly and scrum-half Nic White thought he had sniped in for the opening try in the fourth minute but the score got chalked off on the back of a neck roll by hooker Dave Porecki on Josh van der Flier.
Ireland capitalised on some poor discipline from Australia to work their way up the pitch and were awarded with a penalty 30m from the posts, which Crowley duly slotted to help settle his early nerves in the ninth minute.
The Irish defence was being tested to the hilt as Australia continued to go through the phases and probed for weaknesses in the Irish line in a first half that resembled a game of the Aussie attack versus the Irish defence. They failed to find one, however, and Ireland were able to continually exit without conceding.
In a first half short of highlights, a significant moment occurred in the 37th minute when replacement hooker Folau Fainga'a became the fourth Australian player to be penalised for a neck roll and referee Ben O’Keeffe brandished a yellow card to reduce the Wallabies to 14 men. Ireland marched down the pitch and Dan Sheehan was inches short in the left corner, as Australia survived to leave the scores at just 3-0 at half time.
With Fainga'a in the bin Australia were reduced to thirteen men for a two-minute period due to the bizarre rule of having to bring on a front row forward to complete uncontested scrums during the sinbin period. Ireland thought they had capitalised when Mack Hansen fed Jamison Gibson-Park to go over in the 45th minute, but Hansen had just about been forced into touch by a fantastic try-saving tackle by Bernard Foley to deny Ireland.
The early second half pressure continued for Ireland but now it was Australia’s turn to display their defensive prowess as they held Ireland at bay. With 55 minutes on the clock they finally got themselves on the scoreboard, with Foley slotting from 35m to level matters.
When Ireland kicked to the corner in the 64th minute the huge Aviva Stadium crowd suddenly sprung to life, as if they sensed blood, and their instinct proved to be bang on. A huge Caelan Doris carry got Ireland to within touching distance of the Australian line and after a few more close in carries Craig Casey fed Bundee Aki to crash over for the opening try of the game.
Tries can be like buses sometimes, you wait over an hour for one and then another arrives almost immediately. Australia struck back straight away as Mark Nawaqanitawase made a wide arcing run and fed Jordan Petaia to run in a quality try in the 71st minute. Foley added the extras to level the tie.
Ireland managed to win a scrum penalty in the 77th minute and replacement outhalf Ross Byrne stepped up to brilliantly slot the kick from 40m to win the game for Ireland.
Crowley (1 pen, 1 con), Byrne (1 pen), Aki (1 try).
Foley (1 pen, 1 con), Petaia (1 try).
Keenan; O'Brien, Ringrose, McCloskey, Hansen; Crowley, Gibson-Park; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong; Beirne, Ryan; O'Mahony (capt), van der Flier, Doris.
Conan for O’Mahony (50), Aki for McCloskey (54), McCarthy for Beirne (60), Bealham and Casey for Furlong and Gibson-Park (63), Healy, Herring and Byrne for Porter, Sheehan and Crowley (72).
Kellaway; Nawaqanitawase, Ikitau, Paisami, Wright; Foley, White; Slipper (capt), Porecki, Ala'alatoa; Frost, Neville; Holloway, Hooper, Valetini.
Petaia for Paisami (4), Fainga'a for Porecki (24), Tupou for Petaia (44), Samu for Valetini (40), Valetini and Petaia for Tupou and Samu (46), Samu and Gordon for Valetini and White (48), Tupou and Skelton for Ala’alatoa and Neville (53), Ala’alatoa and White for Tupou and Gordon (54), Gordon for Kellaway (60), Robertson for Slipper (77).
Ben O'Keeffe (NZR)