Ireland 26-21 Australia
So we will be level in this three Test Series down in Australia after Ireland bounced back from defeat last weekend recording an impressive 26-21 win in AAMI Park Melbourne. After being dominated by Australia at the breakdown, Ireland used this week to reset the clock and they realigned the back row bring Dan Leavy back in to the XV instead of Jordi Murphy and they also brought Jonathan Sexton back in to partner Conor Murray who himself seemed back to his best with Sexton in tandem.
The Irish team seemed to have a better balance with Gary Ringrose outside Robbie Henshaw who learned from his errors in the 1st Test. He didn’t shoot up as fast in defence and seemed to trust that Ringrose would be able to get his man at every turn. From an Australian perspective they seemed to want to try and intimidate the Irish defence and there attack was as quick witted with Kurtley Beale instrumental in scoring their only try in the game.
Ireland went back to a game plan that has served them really well in recent seasons , where a high work rate and a solid set piece is vital while the Irish attack can utilise a large array of power plays from the Joe Schmidt play book.
Although Ireland do seem to be struggling to convert pressure and territory in points , they only won by 5 points this morning and will really need to learn quickly how to kill off teams with all that possession and territory. Let’s face it had New Zealand had over 80% of possession and territory in any game they would have scored at least 5 tries in both games.
As it was, they scored two tries through Andrew Conway who retired injured shortly after getting on the scoreboard and Tadgh Furlong who crashed over after some quality build up through the forwards who used some really good handling skills to set him free to get in.
The introduction of Devin Toner alongside James Ryan also gave Ireland a slight edge in the line out because of his height. James Ryan for his part is seriously starting to show the class that was so obvious to Joe Schmidt so much so that he organised a situation where Ryan turned out for the Ireland 20s development side to get him some game time before capping him on the Tour of the USA in 2017. 12 months on he is a Grand Slam winner and also he has a Champions Cup and Pro 14 winners medals from earlier this season.
The return of Sexton was very crucial to that Irish performance today and it proves again how important he will be in 2019 at the World Cup. Ireland have now levelled the Series and will want to finish the job now that they are back to winning ways on this Tour. It is a first win in Australia since 1979.
Roll on the deciding Test which will kick off at 11.05am Irish time next Saturday in Sydney…..
Cian Mc Gibney