Ireland saw off Australia 26-23 in what was their sternest test of the Autumn Series.
The victory ensured Ireland completed a clean sweep in the November Internationals and as the third ranked side in the world, they will go into next year’s World Cup as one of the favourites.
After a dream start saw Joe Schmidt’s charges go 17-0 up inside fifteen minutes the Irish side had to quell a ferocious comeback by the Aussies whose off the cuff style was on full display.
Australia dominated the early exchanges with a number of excursions into the Irish 22, however, excellent use of the choke tackle so effective against the Wallabies in the past, meant the Irish defense held up. After an infringement in the ruck, Johnny Sexton was able to kick the first points of the evening after six minutes.
Sexton missed his next attempt, however another successful deployment allowed Rory Best to rip possession away from the Aussie maul. Eventually, the ball was recycled to Johnny Sexton and after spotting the inexperienced Henry Speights out of position, he sent Simon Zebo clear with a kick to the corner.
Just two minutes later as Australia were knocking on the door, Tommy Bowe, reminiscent of his effort at the World Cup three years ago, stepped out of the line to intercept a pass from Nick Phipps, only this time he took it to the house and after Sexton added the extras Ireland held a 17-0 lead.
Just four minutes later Australia were on the board as a loose pass from Zebo was tipped and intercepted by Phipps, who avoided the Irish cover and touchdown atoning for his earlier error.
Just five minutes later, Australia were over again with fly half Bernard Foley. After consulting with his TMO, the referee awarded the try making the score 17-12 after Foley shanked the conversion.
Ten minutes later, Australia crossed again as Phipps went over for his second of the day after a free flowing move that was worthy of an IRB try of the year nomination.
Another miss from Foley meant the game stayed level and after the teams traded late first half penalties it was 20-20 at the interval.
After a free flowing first half the second half was a much more tense affair as the defences took a grip on proceedings.
After an infringement in the ruck, Johnny Sexton was afforded the opportunity to restore the Irish lead and duly obliged with a monster kick from just inside Australia’s half. However, just three minutes later a Bernard Foley kick ensured the sides were level again. Amazingly, this was the last points the Aussies would get.
Both sides were now trying to impose themselves on the game, but it was Ireland that were dominating territory. This brought about an audacious drop goal attempt from the 10 meter line which agonizingly rebounded of the inside of the upright.
However, a couple of minutes later, Johnny Sexton punished another Aussie infringement with a long-range penalty, restoring the Irish lead.
With heavyweights Kurtley Beale, Quade Cooper and Will Genia all on the field Ireland were holding on for dear life and with some stout defending, forced a number of key knock-ons, which allowed for the clock to tick down.
Finally, a penalty against Adam Ashley Cooper for not releasing allowed Ian Madigan to boot the ball into touch as time expired for a final score 26-23.