A rocky start to the final and deciding test for Joe Schmidt and Ireland team, as the Sydney traffic delayed the Irish arrival by over 30 minutes! Not the ideal start, the unease visible on Schmidt’s face obvious as he dismounted the bus.
The 2016 Six Nations posed the same issue for Schmidt in Scotland, a late arrival to the ground and subsequently to the game. But not this time, Ireland picked themselves up and were elated after 80 plus minutes of rugby.
The Story of the Game
An early tug of war between the two packs saw them level at 3-3, with both teams notably aware of the stakes of the game. Ireland lost Jacob Stockdale to the bin for an elbow to the neck of Nick Phipps – a justified yellow card.
Just as Stockdale returned, a second yellow card in the first half was produced. Israel Folau sin binned for what was a reckless challenge in the air. The original contest was fine but the action of Folau’s left arm dragged Peter O’Mahony to the ground, resulting in a heavy landing and a game-ending tackle on O’Mahony who failed a HIA. Another fair yellow card, and had the Irishman landed further up on his shoulders [like Beauden Barrett the week before], Folau could easily have seen red.
Here's the Folau yellow card. The first contact is fine – fair contest – the problem comes with the contact after the ball is gone (yellow arrow) that tilts O'Mahony's axis over.
That's where the yellow card came from. pic.twitter.com/ly80TxIBX7
— Three Red Kings (@threeredkings) June 23, 2018
Like in the opening test, penalties were exchanged, as each side tried to push the letter of the law. By the end of the half, Ireland held a slim advantage, and the match – and the series – hung in the balance.
Ireland had a stronger start to the second half, continuing their pressure game. Another penalty conceded by the Aussies on their own line gifted Ireland field position. Needing no second invitation, the Ireland maul tumbled over the line, CJ Stander the man at the base of it all. In the coaches box, Joe Schmidt was still as nervous as members of the crowd, but they were on the right side of the scoreline, and with one hand on the series win.
‘Nervy end’ to Australia v Ireland test series
The Irish try actually seemed to spark Australia back into life. While initially Ireland defended Wallabies attack and forced them back to their own 22 meter line, 13 phases of Wallabies counter-attack later, Bernard Foley produced an excellent grubber kick that invited Marika Koroibete onto the ball. Powering through an albeit weak tackle from Rob Kearney, and with Jonny Sexton hanging from his heels, Koroibete powered over.
The conversion making it a one-point game, the long domestic season showed on the Irish side toward the end of the game. The Australian bench making a huge impact, in particular, the ‘Tongan Thor’ Taniela Tupou. With Cian Healy giving away a penalty at scrum time, it gave Australia the opportunity to take a deserved lead. A crucial missed kick, had nerves on edge right up to the final whistle.
The resilience of the this Irish squad and, Sexton in particular, showed in the final minutes. The Leinster star-player landing a 79th minute penalty to give Ireland a four point cushion. But, the drama wasn’t over.
Australia won the kick off and forced the Irish into a nail-biting finish. Although Stockdale was again in the spotlight, until the TMO ruled there was no knockdown of the ball [no evidence]. So the Irish defence eventually won out, Joe Schmidt’s side proving that their rise to the top-table of World Rugby, was justified. Whistle blown, match and series won: 1-2.
Heartbreak for the Wallabies, as Johnny Sexton and Ireland clinch first Test series win on Australian soil in 39 years with 20-16 win in Sydney: https://t.co/VXeA64FLJJ #AUSvIRL (Pic:AP) pic.twitter.com/NDki9vhHQf
— ABC Grandstand (@abcgrandstand) June 23, 2018
Australia 16 – Try: Koroibete; Conversion: Foley; Penalties: Foley (3)
Ireland 20 – Try: Stander; Penalties: Sexton (5)
Australia were devastated; with Wallaby veteran David Pocock saying of the result, “it’s an incredibly disappointing loss”. But too, he congratulated the Irish team, on their historic rugby season.
Historic rugby season for Ireland and Joe Schmidt
This first test series win on Australian soil since 1979, marked the end of a special 2017/18 rugby season for the Irish players. A magical way to end a ‘remarkable season’ for Irish rugby.
A Grand Slam, Triple Crown, Champions Cup/Pro14 double for Leinster, and now a successful June test-series win. A hugely satisfying end to the season for Joe Schmidt and his team.
— Irish Examiner Sport (@ExaminerSport) June 23, 2018
He told Fairfax Media “I think it’s a credit to the players that they dug in just well enough. They deserve a break.”
And a short window will see players rest, before the Celtic League pre-season, first matches leading into the Autumn Internationals. Then, the ultimate challenge awaits – New Zealand. By then, Joe Schmidt and his group may well have caught their breaths, after claiming the Lansdowne Cup from Australia.
“Main photo credit”
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