Wallabies return to winning ways
June 26, 2010
Try time for Australia's Luke Burgess at the Suncorp Stadium
© Getty Images
Australia bounced back from their defeat at the hands of England with a hard-fought 22-15 victory over Ireland in their clash at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
An early try from scrum-half Luke Burgess and another just before the break by fly-half Quade Cooper helped the unpolished hosts home against a battling but limited Irish side who stayed in touch with No.10 Jonathan Sexton landing five penalties. The result ensures the Wallabies enter this year's Tri-Nations on a winning note and brings the curtain down on Ireland's largely disappointing tour, which also included defeats to the All Blacks and New Zealand Maori.
It was a much-improved all-round performance from the tourists, who threatened to end their losing run on southern hemisphere soil dating back to their series triumph over the Wallabies in 1979. But in the end their collective effort could not match that of Australia with errors and the individual brilliance of Cooper proving the difference between the sides.
Both teams entered the clash shorn of a host of stars with injuries robbing Australia of their first-choice front five while a gruelling season had also taken its toll on Ireland with 14 front-line players absent for a variety of reasons - but it did not prevent the two squads delivering a highly-entertaining and competitive clash.
An electric atmosphere greeted the sides and Ireland rewarded their huge number of supporters with a lively opening during which they took the game to the Wallabies. And they soon had further reason to cheer with Sexton slotting the opening points of the game after the hosts were forced into an early penalty. Ireland were guilty of an offside penalty of their own, offering Giteau the chance to erase the memory of his costly miss against England last weekend. His nightmare continued with this latest effort sailing wide of the posts.
The whistle of referee Bryce Lawrence was soon cutting through the din again with the Wallabies' indiscipline the target of his blast. The in-form Sexton doubled his side's lead with an excellent long-range penalty. A deliberate knock-on from centre Brian O'Driscoll then snuffed out a promising attack from the hosts and this time Cooper stepped up to land the kick from out wide and gets his side back into the contest.
Wallabies centre Rob Horne then pounced on a loose pass from O'Driscoll in midfield before racing deep into the Irish 22 but play was eventually called back for the slightest of knock-ons by Cooper as the ball made its way into his team-mate's grasp. However, they did not have to wait long for another Irish error that gifted them the opening try of the game. A short side move off the scrum saw debutant No.8 Chris Henry show too much of the ball to Burgess who raced away to the delight of the home crowd.
Cooper could not add the extras but the Wallabies had the lead - for a couple of minutes at least. A penalty against lock Mark Chisholm for not releasing at the breakdown allowed Sexton to add to his personal tally with another excellent strike.
The competitive nature of the game continued to enthral with first Australia knocking on the door only for their indiscipline to let them down before O'Driscoll ghosted through the Wallabies' defence all too easily before feeding paceman Andrew Trimble out wide. The winger ran out of room but the latest penalty against the home side received familiar treatment from Sexton.
Hooker Sean Cronin's eagerness then got the better of him as he leapt out of the defensive line and Cooper punished him with his second penalty of the game but Australia's lazy runners allowed Sexton to cancel out the score just moments later.
A nasty-looking collapsed scrum caused a significant delay before the break with Irish tight-head Tony Buckley the unlucky player to take the full force but he rose from deck to rejoin the action. He and his colleagues were not able to prevent the Wallabies from regaining the lead before half-time with the magical Cooper slipping through the Irish defence before stepping fullback Rob Kearney and dotting down. The elusive No.10 was unable to convert his own score and the team headed to the tunnel with the game very much in the balance.
A sliced clearance at the start of the second half handed Australia great field position that they conspired to waste and Ireland were guilty of the same shortly after having conjured a break that offered so much more. But there were more warning signs for the tourists with replacement Kurtley Beale adding significant pace to an attack but the fullback was guilty of kicking possession away soon after when one-on-one with prop Cian Healey. But not all was lost and play came back for a penalty that saw Giteau rediscover his kicking boots and stretch his side's lead.
Ireland responded by threatening in midfield with Sexton causing concern with ball in hand but another knock-on from O'Driscoll saw the move break down. They would soon be punished for coming away empty handed having produced arguably their most impressive passage of play in the game. The visitors were forced into a desperate defensive effort with wave after wave of attacks taking the Wallabies deep into the Irish 22 where fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper went close and although they were repelled - it was done so illegally and Giteau stroked the simple penalty through the posts.
Cooper sliced Ireland open again moments later and he found support in fullback James O'Connor but they were unable to work an opening against a defence that was beginning to show the ill-effects of not only the game but a long season. The Irish pack opted to keep it tight in a bid to stem the Wallabies' flow but they too struggled to find a cutting edge.
Cooper looked to quell the Irish resistance with a penalty late in the game but he tried to force it from long range and his technique and the ball suffered as a result. But Ireland were a spent force and their challenge petered out with the resurgent Wallabies' scrum having the final say in the contest.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.
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