Ireland produce display to beat Wallabies

Ireland produced one of the greatest displays in their history to stun world champions Australia at a rain-lashed Lansdowne Road in Dublin today.

Ireland 18, Australia 9 (result)

Ireland produced one of the greatest displays in their history to stun world champions Australia at a rain-lashed Lansdowne Road in Dublin today.

Outside-half Ronan O’Gara kicked all the home side’s points as they claimed their first win over one of the big three from the southern hemisphere in 23 years.

The magnificent men in green proved they can win even in the absence of talisman and skipper Keith Wood as centre Brian O’Driscoll celebrated his first game in charge with a famous triumph.

Ireland fully deserved their first win over Australia in Dublin for 33 years as they ended an 11-match losing streak against the Wallabies in emphatic fashion.

Coach Eddie O’Sullivan’s men adapted far better to the conditions, with lashing rain and wind making a running game virtually impossible, while the kicking of O’Gara from hand and at goal proved the decisive factor.

The victory was the perfect boost for Ireland who face Australia twice Down Under next year, including a vital World Cup pool game.

Australia, who won 23-3 on their last visit to Dublin in 1999 while on their way to claiming the world crown in Cardiff, had been hit by injury and unavailability to several key players.

But that cannot take anything away from the Irish and they will have to regroup for the clash against England at Twickenham next week, the game they had believed would be the hardest of their four-match Autumn tour.

Australia will need skipper George Gregan back in London with the scrum-half heading back home tonight to be with his wife Erica who is due to give birth to their second child on Monday.

Though Gregan was powerless to prevent his side slipping to defeat, it is the forwards who will need to improve if they are to prevent England claiming a hat-trick of wins.

The Wallabies barely got out of their own half in the opening 40 minutes though it was they who came closest to scoring on 10 minutes when Gregan launched an attack down the left.

Wing Scott Staniforth looked set to score in the corner but was thwarted by Irish full-back Girvan Dempsey’s last-gasp smothering tackle and within minutes the home side grabbed a lead they would never relinquish.

O’Gara landed his first penalty after Australia failed to clear one of his long touch-finders and were then caught offside.

The visitors, showing six changes to the team that came through a hard-fought encounter with Argentina last week, suffered a further blow moments later as lock Owen Finegan injured an arm in a tackle and was replaced by Justin Harrison.

O’Gara soon added to the Irish lead with a penalty before the Munster stalwart then set-up a period of pressure with another huge kick with George Gregan, one of the few Australian players not to wear gloves, unable to hold onto the greasy ball.

Right-wing Shane Horan did defy the conditions to collect a chip-ahead and almost force his way over in the corner but Australia were caught offside anyway and O’Gara landed his third penalty.

Matthew Burke finally got Australia on the scoreboard after 34 minutes with a penalty after Ireland had infringed in a line-out.

But it was a brief respite as Ireland were quickly back on the attack and got their reward as O’Gara’s fourth successful kick of the half gave them a 12-3 lead at the break.

O’Gara punished Australia after replacement Harrison questioned a penalty decision by New Zealand referee Steve Walsh who moved the kick 10 metres closer.

Ireland made one change at the break with wing Denis Hickie, winded after a collision with opposite number Wendell Sailor, replaced by Munster’s John Kelly.

Burke reduced the arrears five minutes after the interval with his second penalty but moments later O’Gara was on target again to reopen the 12-point advantage.

Australia thought they had finally forced their way into the match on 50 minutes when lock David Giffin chased a kick ahead by Stirling Mortlock.

But with Burke eyeing the conversion the video referee ruled that Dempsey had just got a meaningful touch on the ball as he came across to cover – but it was barely a fingertip.

Burke allowed O’Driscoll to get a much firmer touch as he charged down a kick and took Ireland right to the goal-line but somehow the Wallabies defence held firm and cleared the danger.

O’Gara made it six successful kicks out of six minutes later and though Burke bisected the posts with still 20 minutes left there was to be no way storming comeback from the World Champions.

Ireland have been in winning positions before against the top teams only to tire in the final quarter and lose out.

But there was no danger of that this time and they comfortably held the visitors at bay to register a memorable and thoroughly-deserved victory they will still be talking about when they head Down Under for the World Cup next October.

The significance of the result with the World Cup on the horizon was not lost on the players as they charged about the field at the final whistle before embarking on a lap of honour with U2’s ’A Beautiful Day’ blasting from the speakers.

It was never that, though the rain had finally begun to relent as the drenched spectators headed for the bars of Dublin to begin the celebrations.

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