Ireland finished their 2016 campaign on a high when they claimed a hard-fought 27-24 victory over Australia in Dublin on Saturday.
The result is a momentous one for the home side as it means they are the first Northern Hemisphere side, since England in 2003, to beat the Southern Hemisphere’s traditional powerhouses of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in the same calendar year.
Ireland and Australia stayed true to their philosophy in a thrilling encounter, with both sides constantly looking to keep ball in hand, and the lead changed hands on several occasions during the second half after Australia launched a stunning fightback.
Both teams scored three tries apiece and the result was in the balance until the final minute when Ireland managed to put huge pressure on an Australian scrum inside the Wallabies’ 22.
Ireland held the upper hand in the early exchanges but they had to wait until the 17th minute to convert their dominance into points when Paddy Jackson opened the scoring via a penalty after David Pocock infringed at the breakdown.
Five minutes later, the Wallabies were dealt a blow when Dean Mumm was sent to the sin bin for a tip tackle on Tadhg Furlong. It did not take long for the the home side to capitalize on their numerical advantage as shortly afterwards Iain Henderson scored their opening try.
This after Keith Earls did well to gather a perfectly weighted grubber kick from Simon Zebo before offloading to Henderson who went over with a defender on his back.
Jackson added the extras and ten minutes later, it was more of the same when Garry Ringrose gathered a wayward Conor Murray pass close to Australia’s tryline and waltzed past a couple of defenders before crashing over for a deserved try.
The Wallabies seemed shell-shocked by that score but to their credit, they picked themselves up and replied via a Dane Haylett-Petty try on the stroke of half-time after Israel Folau and Trevita Kuridrani did well in the build-up.
The second half saw the visitors continuing where they left off before the break and five minutes after the restart Kuridrani rounded off a flowing back-line move in the left-hand corner which put his side back in contention with the score at 17-14 to the home side.
Jackson extended Ireland’s lead when he slotted a penalty in the 50th minute before the Wallabies’ brilliant attacking play was rewarded when shortly after coming off the replacements bench, Sefa Naivalu ran a brilliant line before crossing for his side’s third try.
Bernard Foley slotted the conversion, which put the Wallabies in front for the first time and on the hour-mark he added a penalty to increase their lead.
Ireland did not surrender and took the visitors on at their own game and after showing great patience, after taking the ball through several attacking phases, Zebo offloaded to Earls who went over for what would prove to be the matchwinnning try in the 65th minute.
The Wallabies continued to attack but in their bid to regain the lead they were reduced to 14 men again when Foley was also yellow carded for a lifting tackle on Devin Toner.
And although the visitors tried to fight back in the closing stages,Ireland were in control and held on for a memorable win.
Tries: Henderson, Ringrose, Earls
Cons: Jackson 3
Pens: Jackson 2
Tries: Haylett-Petty, Kuridrani, Naivalu
Cons: Foley 3
Yellow Cards: Mumm, Foley
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Garry Ringrose, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Simon Zebo
Australia: 15 Israel Folau 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 James Slipper, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Sefanaia Naivalu
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: JP Doyle (England), Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)