Australia power past Ireland
November 16, 2013
Fergus McFadden is stopped in his tracks
© Getty Images
Australia eased past a lacklustre Ireland side with a confident 32-15 victory at Aviva Stadium as they got their autumn campaign back on track.
Ireland failed to ever get out of first gear and lost fly-half Jonathan Sexton to injury at the interval - a concern ahead of the visit of New Zealand next weekend. Livewire Australia fulcrum Quade Cooper claimed a try to pass 100 international points, Michael Hooper grabbing a brace and Nick Cummins completing the scoring.
Despite crossing the line twice, Joe Schmidt's Ireland were unable to conjure a try and will be furious with the defensive lapses that led to Hooper's first score, and Cooper's soft finish. Australia's fly-half opened the scoring with a ninth-minute penalty, before Sexton levelled from the tee after a strong Ireland rolling maul.
Queensland Reds fly-half Cooper then fluffed a straightforward penalty, but the Wallabies struck quickly.
Schmidt and Ireland would have happily had Stephen Moore - who turned down an opportunity to play for Ireland aged 19 - in green when he bisected their midfield, before producing a scoring pass even Brian O'Driscoll himself would have savoured. Cummins received Moore's pass, cut in off his left wing and outfoxed the remaining cover to notch his third Wallabies try.
New head coach Joe Schmidt spent all week telling his players just how foolish it would be to kick away cheap ball to the Wallabies. So he would have been spitting feathers when Tommy Bowe cleared loosely from his own 22 and straight into gleeful Australian clutches.
Cooper's whipped pass sent Folau to the line, Australia worked the ball back left and Fardy's back-handed offload ripped Ireland apart. Openside Hooper was left with a clear run home for his first international score.
Ireland rallied immediately, Fitzgerald's flat pass sending McFadden into the Australia 22. Peter O'Mahony knocked on after sustained phase play, but Ireland won a free kick at the scrum. Heaslip's number-eight break brought two tight sneaks towards the line, before Reddan failed to deliver the killer pass.
After all the pressure, Sexton had to settle for a penalty. McFadden's searing break yielded another penalty that Sexton knocked over with Hooper sent to the sin-bin.
Another fluent Irish attack brought Sexton's fourth penalty of the night, closing an engaging half missing only a home try. Leinster's Ian Madigan replaced Sexton at half-time, with the Racing Metro fly-half suffering that potential hamstring problem. Another flat Cooper pass sent Cummins into the left corner from Australia's bright start, but Bowe did just enough to deny him his second try.
TMO Geoff Warren reviewed the play, and rightly ruled a knock-on.
Australia turned Ireland over at the scrum though, and Cooper struck all too easily from the set-piece. The wily outside-half claimed his seventh Australia try, ghosting between Madigan and Luke Marshall's wafer-thin resistance.
Cooper landed his second penalty after Rob Kearney's uncharacteristic high-ball spill. Ireland's scrum power then brought a penalty, that Madigan duly converted. Ireland punted a kickable penalty to the corner to launch the final quarter, only to knock on at the line-out when Australia sacked their maul at source.
The Wallabies took that cue to wrestle back control and quickly scored through a line-out drive of their own. Flanker Hooper rose from the pile of bodies with the ball, to confirm his second try of the night.
Tevita Kuridrani was then sent off for a dangerous tackle on flanker O'Mahony, as he tipped the Munster back-rower and planted him on his head. Replacement Conor Murray then thought he had scored immediately from a penalty snipe, but referee Chris Pollock brought back the play, refusing to allow the quick tap as Ireland's frustrations grew.
O'Driscoll, Marshall and Jack McGrath dragged Ireland close again, and Sean Cronin powered over. The replacement hooker was denied his first Ireland try though, with the TMO chalking it off due to a Murray knock-on in the build-up.
Two games in the honeymoon period is well and truly over on the Schmidt era, while Ireland produced several promising sections, the visitors more than merited victory.
Will Genia was a driving force for Australia throughout © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September