Ireland make it a clean sweep in Autumn internationals

Ireland make it a clean sweep in Autumn internationals

Ireland fended off a relentless late onslaught to grind past Australia 26-23, despite being outscored three tries to two in Dublin.

Joe Schmidt’s men completed their first autumn Test series clean sweep since 2006 thanks to tries from Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe and Johnny Sexton’s 16 points.

Ireland make it a clean sweep in Autumn internationals

Australia scrum-half Nick Phipps crossed twice, with Bernard Foley claiming a third score for the visitors, but Ireland somehow held firm under huge final-quarter pressure.

Captain Paul O’Connell led the raft of returning senior Ireland stars following last weekend’s routine 49-7 victory over Georgia.

Robbie Henshaw partnered Gordon D’Arcy in midfield after Jared Payne failed to beat his foot sprain, as Ireland sought their first autumn Test clean sweep since 2006.

Fiji-born wing Henry Speight made his Test debut for opponents Australia as former Leinster coach Michael Cheika returned to Irish soil.

Rory Best and Peter O'Mahony won a fine turnover penalty at the ruck, allowing Johnny Sexton to open the scoring from the tee in the sixth minute.

Sexton’s high bomb sent Ireland away again, Robbie Henshaw stepping sneakily through traffic before mishandling cut the momentum.

James Slipper tackled the airborne Kearney to hand Ireland a second kickable penalty, Australia’s loosehead prop perhaps fortunate to escape a yellow card.

Sexton stroke for goal again, but this time dragged wide what should have proved a routine effort.

Best robbed the ball when Ireland held Australia up in the tackle again, and Sexton’s prescient kick in behind the defence allowed Zebo to win the footrace and slide home for the game’s first try.

Racing Metro playmaker Sexton’s conversion pushed Ireland into a 10-0 lead, with the crowd chanting Munster flyer Zebo’s name in delight.

Australia’s immediate riposte led to clean line breaks for Bernard Foley and Kuridrani, but the lurking Tommy Bowe cut their break dead with a keen-eyed intercept.

Ireland make it a clean sweep in Autumn internationals

The Ulster wing then raced the length to score and cement Ireland’s hugely-impressive start, with Sexton again adding the extras for a 17-0 home advantage.

The blitzkrieg start continued unabated when Australia clawed back a try, Nick Phipps profiting from Zebo’s intercepted pass to hare home.

Foley’s conversion cut Australia’s deficit to 10 points midway through the first half.

Australia hustled Gordon D’Arcy in Ireland’s 22, forcing Conor Murray into a loose pass that Sexton hurriedly punted out, handing the Wallabies an attacking line-out deep in home territory.

Kearney made a try-saving tackle on debutant Speight after Foley’s accurate crossfield chip, before Foley stole a try.

Phipps’ scoring pass to Foley appeared decidedly forward, but the French television match official (TMO) Eric Gauzins still awarded the score.

Ireland make it a clean sweep in Autumn internationals

Australia fly-half Foley missed the conversion to leave Ireland leading 17-12.

Ireland wasted territorial advantage when poor support forced Kearney into conceding a penalty for holding on.

When Australia countered at pace, Matt Toomua’s flicked inside pass set Foley away, with the fly-half in turn sending half-back partner Phipps away for his second try.

Foley’s second missed conversion left the scores locked at 17-17, despite the visitors leading the try count three to two.

Australia’s resurgence rattled Ireland and rendered their defensive shaped at best bedraggled, and Foley’s penalty wrestled the visitors the lead for the first time.

Israel Folau batted away Sexton’s crossfield chip, but a penalty advantage allowed the Racing fly-half to level the scores with his second goal.

Yet more breathless fare met the resumption, Zebo spilling a routine pass and Phipps knocking on in sweeping up Sexton's threatening chip.

Sexton posted his third penalty before Foley responded with a goal of his own, Rhys Ruddock admonished for slipping his bind at the scrum.

Ruddock’s misdemeanour underscored Mike Ross’ gritty scrum battle with Wallabies prop James Slipper, the flanker ill-advisedly moving to his tighthead’s aid.

Henshaw’s badly-timed chip gifted Australia possession and indicated a slight slip in Ireland’s midfield rudder.

Replacement Kurtley Beale tried to take advantage of that glimmer of disarray, only for Ireland to win a vital turnover penalty on the ground.

Ireland moved into midfield off the top of the lineout, only for O’Mahony to concede a scrum after a sharp break from Bowe.

Speight tackled Kearney after the Ireland full-back dispatched a chip down the line, but referee Glen Jackson saw no foul play.

Ian Madigan replaced Gordon D’Arcy after the Leinster centre suffered a heavy blow to the head, with the teams still locked at 23-23 on the hour.

Ireland make it a clean sweep in Autumn internationals

A monster scrummage from Ireland and a pinpoint Sexton punt into the corner heaped the pressure right back on Australia.

The Wallabies cleared straight to Kearney and the full-back launched an ambitious drop-goal attempt from long-range.

Kearney’s strike sailed easily goalwards, only to rebound off the right-hand post, allowing Australia to clear.

Sexton’s fourth penalty of the night edged Ireland back into the 26-23 lead before Wallabies replacement fly-half Quade Cooper’s grubber squeezed Ireland back into their own 22.

Australia powered on to the front foot, but Madigan produced a try-saving tackle that also yielded an Ireland scrum.

Ireland quickly cleared their lines, but Australia simply responded by battering straight back into the home 22.

The Wallabies threw everything into a clearly-pivotal scrum, only to be squeezed into a penalty by the increasingly-edgy hosts.

Michael Cheika’s side came again and again until captain Michael Hooper spilled Beale’s inside ball.

A groggy Sexton punted downfield to ease pressure momentarily, before being replaced by Reddan.

Australia attacked one more time, until Madigan claimed a fine turnover penalty, to sound the final whistle.

More in this Section

Mauricio Pochettino wants Tottenham to kick on after late equaliserMauricio Pochettino wants Tottenham to kick on after late equaliser

Foxes paid fitting tribute to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha – Brendan RodgersFoxes paid fitting tribute to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha – Brendan Rodgers

Ralph Hasenhuttl: It was about time Southampton proved a pointRalph Hasenhuttl: It was about time Southampton proved a point

Even Manchester City would struggle with our defensive crisis – FarkeEven Manchester City would struggle with our defensive crisis – Farke


Lifestyle

Ovarian cancer has been dubbed ‘the silent killer’. Christina Henry tells Rowena Walsh why she is one of the lucky onesAgeing with attitude: Life after ovarian cancer

Jamie Oliver is on a mission to get everyone eating more vegetables with the release of his new book, Veg.A selection of recipes from Jamie Oliver's new book Veg

More From The Irish Examiner