Ireland claimed a famous 15-6 victory over Tri-Nations champions Australia in the Rugby World Cup Saturday morning. The Irish pack was brilliant and won the battle in the scrum, while Jonathan Sexton and Ronan O’Gara kicked Ireland to victory.
It was a great performance from Ireland after the disappointment of last week. Australia badly missed the injured David Pocock and Stephen Moore, but Ireland’s victory was thoroughly deserved.
The first half was fiercely contested and evenly balanced. Neither side threatened the try line, while Jonathan Sexton and James O’Connor were wasteful from placekicks. Australia had 60 per cent of territory during the first period, but Ireland’s superiority in the scrum was already apparent.
Australia opened the scoring in the 10th minute. Australia made their way to the Irish try line, but Ireland held firm before conceding a scrum. Ireland collapsed the scrum twice and Australia were awarded a penalty, which James O’Connor dispatched easily.
Ireland’s first chance came in the 13th minute, but Sexton missed to the right. The out-half was able to redeem himself three minutes later, however, as he scored Ireland’s first three points from a penalty.
Ireland took the lead in the 18th minute. Ireland attacked well and kept possession for 14 phases before being awarded a penalty. Sexton used the advantage to go for a drop goal and split the posts.
Australia equalised in the 24th minute. Sean O’Brien was penalised for being offside and O’Connor scored from in front of the posts to make it 6-6. Three minutes later O’Connor missed the opportunity to give Australia the lead when his penalty drifted to the right.
Australia’s pack continued to struggle and Ireland were awarded a penalty in the 33rd minute after the scrum collapsed twice. Sexton hit a poor shot, however, and the penalty went well wide.
The half ended on a good note for Ireland, as a brilliant scrum allowed Stephen Ferris to force Genia ten metres back towards his own try line. Both sides were able to play out the half and the score was locked at 6-6 at the interval.
Australia created a decent try scoring opportunity just after the break. Kurtley Beale made a great run down the left wing through the Irish line. Beale passed to Ashley-Cooper, who tried to pass to Quade Cooper but his pass was slightly in front of the out-half.
Sexton gave Ireland the lead again from a well struck penalty in the 49th minute. It would be his last action as out-half, as Ronan O’Gara came on for the injured Gordon D’Arcy and Sexton moved to the centre.
Sexton continued kicking duties for the next penalty, however. Sexton’s kick from the left wing hit the upright and almost bounced into O’Driscoll’s hands. The Irish captain reacted quicker than the whole Australian team and was unlucky not to score a try.
Ireland were awarded another penalty in the 62nd minute, as Australia continued to collapse the scrum. Ronan O’Gara took the penalty this time and dispatched the kick with aplomb.
Ireland almost benefitted from poor Australian catching in the 67th minute. Sexton kicked long and high and Australia’s backs failed to deal with the aerial attack. The ball bounced and Rob Kearney did well to collect the ball. The attack ended with a knock-on, but Australia still had to deal with a scrum on their own five yard line.
Ireland were awarded a penalty in front of the posts in the 71st minute after Australia repeatedly collapsed the scrum. Ronan O’Gara converted the penalty to give Ireland a commanding nine point lead with nine minutes to play.
Australia attacked gamely in the coming minutes but could not break the Irish try line. Genia got closest in the 76th minute but he was stopped on the try line by Sean O’Brien.
The game was sealed moments later. From the scrum, Australia passed left. Tommy Bowe broke forward, intercepted the ball and ran from his own five yard line to near the Australian try line. The winger was tackled before he scored but the damage was done. Australia had two minutes to go 95 yards and needed two scores.
Conor Murray went over for a try in the 79th minute, but the play was brought back for an earlier infringement.
Australia tried to attack but Ireland held on for a momentous victory.
The win has massive implications for all the major teams in the World Cup. If Ireland beat Russia and Italy, they will top Group C and the three Tri-Nations sides will be in the same side of the draw for the first time in World Cup history. France and England, and not just Ireland, will be delighted by this morning’s result at Eden Park.