Good evening, internet.
We’re putting away the last of the pre-match pie down in the depths of the Aviva Stadium, but now that that important act is over and done with, we can count the 65 minutes down to kick-off between Ireland v Australia.
I’m not going to lie, we’re pretty damn excited about this game.
Seats have been scarce enough for this, the second game of the Joe Schmidt era, so it’s nice to see that Ronan O’Gara and Andrew Trimble have been allowed in under the guise of ‘working’ in the media.
Now that Richie McCaw has stopped rambling on about how great Dan Carter is on the TV beside me, we’re off on the big hike up out of the cozy confines of the media room to the cool night air in the stands of Lansdowne Road.
While you’re waiting on the big kick-off, have a quick gawk at the 3 key battles we feel will decide this game and also Murray Kinsella’s bingo card of things to watch out for as the 80 minutes unfolds.
All done? Good. Now, here are the teams:
Ireland: Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Luke Marshall, Fergus McFadden; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Devin Toner, Paul O’Connell (c); Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Steven Archer, Mike McCarthy, Kevin McLaughlin, Conor Murray, Ian Madigan, Robbie Henshaw.
Australia: Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; James Slipper, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu; Rob Simmons, James Horwill; Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Ben Mowen (c).
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Paddy Ryan, Sitaleki Timani, Liam Gill, Nic White, Christian Leal’ifano, Joe Tomane.
Phew, made it.
Joe Schmidt is down to our left running dummy lines in the Ireland back-line before taking them all into a huddle. The Australian pack is doing some last minute scrum work.
Prediction time: Anybody fancy calling a scoreline in the comments section? I’m staking my flimsy reputation on a 22 – 17 Ireland win.
Roy Keane is in his seat just in time to see the gold jacketed Aussies leave the tunnel. No doubt he’s here to reconsider Fergus McFadden’s claim to a midfield berth.
Either I’m getting older, or those fireworks are getting louder. Probably both.
In any case, it’s made for a smoky scene as Michael D Higgins comes out to meet and greet Ben Mowen and the Wallabies.
Now, all we need is a brisk trio of national anthems and we’ll be under way….
Lovely stuff. Now, who’s up for some rugby?
We just about found time for Freddie Mercury to sing We will rock you after the anthems, bit it’s finally time.
KICK-OFF: Matt Toomua has commenced hostilities.
Toomua’s kick is taken by Heaslip in the 22 and Ireland clear. Devin Toner manages to get down on the ground and Ireland’s next phase brings a penalty for a late hit, but Sexton doesn’t make touch and Australia are invited to run.
Once on their right wing though, Hooper is pinged for going in on the side and this time Sexton does make touch.
Ah, it looked like such a smooth line-out to begin with, Best finding Toner in the middle, but the big man’s pass went 45 degrees to the floor.
Ireland’s return kick is well chased, but not well enough to beat Folau who glides onto it before being tackles. His offload is good, but knocked on.
Lovely little chop forward from Sexton and Luke Marshall shows silky hands to take the ball on, but Ireland’s move soon breaks down and Cooper’s kick to the corner just evades his near namesake Adam Ashley.
Peter O’Mahony getting a scolding from Chris Pollock. He’ll be keeping his distance in the line-out from now on.
The Kiwi’s whistle is benefiting Ireland so far and after awarding Ireland’s third penalty, he extends a request to Ben Mowen to sort it out.
There’s one penalty in the green and gold column. Marshall is unfortunate as he scrambles onto Sean O’Brien’s spill, but does not release as two Wallabies contest for the ball.
PENALTY: Ireland 0 – 3 Australia (Cooper ’9)
Another day, another powerful looking Ireland maul. The route one off the line-out takes us 10 metres upfield and into the 22. The platform sets a flowing back-line move in motion as Sexton cleverly watches one defender shoot up past the ball before spinning right to Kearney. The gold defence is solid in that area, but Ireland can come back for a straightforward offside penalty.
PENALTY: Ireland 3 – 3 Australia (Sexton ’12)
Pollock continues to warn James Slipper about changing his bind after the ‘set’, but in this scrum he calls Mike Ross for collapsing and Quade Cooper will have another kickable penalty.
Well, well, well. Quade’s kick goes high, left and wide of the posts. We’re still level, but the Wallabies have the ball back in midfield.
TRY: Ireland 3 – 10 Australia (Cummins 18)
On first viewing, that try looks like the result of O’Driscoll shooting up in the line again. He wasn’t punished when it happened in Samoa’s 22, but it counts for seven points against the Wallabies.
There’s Tommy Bowe. It was a quiet opening quarter for the winger, but he made up for it by picking a route past James Horwill. His offload is knocked on by McCarthy, but we come back for a penalty for taking out Eoin Reddan.
Serious language to be heard over the ref link as Sexton makes a woeful connection with the ball and it goes wide.
Robbie Henshaw is in the game as Brian O’Driscoll reluctantly leaves the field as a blood sub.
TRY! Ireland 3 – 15 Australia (hooper ’24)
Oh dear, the green defence was shredded again allowing the flanker cruise in after Peter O’Mahony couldn’t get a firm hand on Scott Fardy and his opposite number offloaded to his fellow backrow.
Another energetic response from Ireland before McFadden is smashed from two sides 10 metres from the try-line. We rumble right and into the centre, but it ends with a knock on.
The scrum brings a free-kick Ireland’s way and now we’re in perfect attacking position. Heaslip gives a clever reverse inside pass and Sean O’Brien carries Cooper back to the brink of the try-line.
Australia have slowed it down but there’s an advantage coming.
At last, Brian O’Driscoll is on the sideline asking to come back on and Sexton’s kick is good.
Don’t call it a comeback.
PENALTY: Ireland 6 – 15 Australia (Sexton ’30)
When in doubt, O’Brien is again tasked with giving Ireland a front foot and Sexton produces a lovely kick for territory with Cummins caught in a midfield ruck.
SIN BIN: Michael Hooper 33 mins
The flanker’s half is over after he slowed the ball down on his 22 after Rob Kearney created another scinitllating break from Fergus McFadden
PENALTY: Ireland 9 – 15 Australia (Sexton ’33)
Just like last week, McFadden gets himself in a muddle on the restart down in the left corner of the 22. Reddan’s box-kick is claimed by Izzy Folau who will always climb higher than everyone else, but without Hooper, Ireland manage to force the penalty and can move up to half way in search of a crucial score before half time.
PENALTY: Ireland 12 – 15 Australia (Sexton ’39)
Ireland try to make the extra man count by building their phases slowly. An overlap does present itself on the right, but Rory Best was wrapped up well enough to stop him getting the tackle away and Mowen will take another talking to for his team’s handsy breakdown work.
Play it as you see it? Ireland certainly did, with Eoin Reddan switching the play left when many would have kicked the ball dead.
After O’Driscoll flings the ball back inside to Healy though, it ends badly. Not just the gold penalty, but Jonny Sexton has pulled up injured and looked like a man who knew he wouldn’t be playing a second 40 minutes tonight.
HALF TIME: Ireland 12 – 15 Australia
Is Ian Madigan international quality? We’re about to find out.
The Leinster 10 is the only replacement as the second half gets under way.
Australia are keeping possession deep in Irish territory as they wind the clock down before welcoming Hooper back…
But they do much more than that. Cooper spins the ball left and Cummins gets outside Bowe and on the TMO it looks like he was able to dot it down at the second attempt.
Well, it looked like that, but TMO Geoff Warren decided that he didn’t have control of the ball. No arguments here.
Ireland have no control in the scrum and the free-kick goes to the visitors five metres out.
Settle in, we could be here a while.
TRY! Ireland 12 – 22 Australia (Cooper ’46)
Ireland’s defensive line remains porous. Ian Madigan raced up to close Cooper down, but looked like he was waiting on somebody else to make the straight up tackle. The out-half produced a simple jink and glided in under the posts.
Shocking stuff. And the Reds playmker has just added his 15th point of the night with a long-range penalty.
PENALTY: Ireland 12 – 25 Australia (Cooper ’50)
The Aviva was a mausoleum for a few minutes there and Madigan’s confidence seems to be mirroring the mood in the crowd.
Luke Marshall makes a line-break out on the left wing to briefly lift the gloom, but we end with a knock on and another time-consuming set of scrums.
Chance for the replacement 10 to make some amends on his fourth cap as Ireland are awarded a scrum penalty and that’s the signal for Conor Murray to enter the game.
PENALTY: Ireland 15 – 25 Australia (’57)
Solid penalty from Madigan, no doubts over his place-kicking. The next 25 minutes will be an interesting viewing as he and Murray team up for the first time.
Are you still with me, Ireland? We’ll keep going anyway. If watching Gravity this week taught us anything, it’s the importance of continuing to chat even if you’re unsure if anybody is listening. And, hey, we’re only 10 points down.
And that gap is soon to be seven if Madigan can slot this 35 metre penalty after Kepu and Fardy are caught offside…
Oh, but we’re going for the corner. All the chips are on the table for Ireland and Best hits the big man with the throw. Paul O’Connell comes down as Lansdowne cries ‘heave’, but it soon turns back to growns as Sean O’Brien is disconnected from the back of the maul and smothered.
Mike Ross is having a torrid time out there, he’s pinged by Pollock again for bringing the scrum down and the Wallabies are able to move up to half way.
Here comes the cavalry. Sean Cronin and Stephen Archer come into the front row in place of Ross and Best.
The Wallabies also make a tight head change, Paddy Ryan in insstead of Kepu and at half back Nic White has replaced Will Genia.
TRY! Ireland 15 – 32 Australia (Hooper ’67)
Ouch. The fresh members of Ireland’s pack are unceremoniously heaved back across their own try-line and that man Michael Hooper is the lucky man to plant the pill down.
Cooper’s last act before being replaced is to nail the touchline conversion.
Well, this isn’t the evening we had planned. Australia have called the big guns ashore and pulling back a big slap on the back for themselves. They’ve outsmarted us up front and dished out the maximum punishment to errors in our back line.
Joe Schmidt’s era is about to be taken back down to 50%
Pollock is roaring ‘it wasn’t him’ as O’Mahony goes tearing after a Wallaby.
After a TMO check, The Munster man is shown to be 100% right to be upset as he was lifted high by the Aussie centre and dumped on his neck.
RED CARD: Tevita Kuridrani.
The Wallabies are down to 14 and Hooper is replaced just as Luke Marshall makes another big line break down the middle only to be wrapped up with no support coming after him.
Rob Kearney is now being helped from the field allowing Robbie Henshaw come on as a permanent sub. This defeat is coming at a mounting cost.
They’re out, but Ireland are not down… if that makes sense.
The 77th minute brings a beautiful back-line moves with loops and reverse passes from O’Driscoll and Marshall. Alas, it can’t force a line break and barely takes us over the advantage line.
The next move does earn metres. O’Driscoll finds space in the middle and sends Jack McGrath rumbling forward. Two phases later, Sean Cronin is in… the TMO rules it lost forward.
Not. Our. Night.
Michael Hooper is named man-of-the-match as the crowds stream to the Aviva’s exits.
FULL TIME: Ireland 15 – 32 Australia
Well, what more can we say after that? An awfully disappointing defensive performance and result to Joe Schmidt’s second game in charge.
We’ll be bringin you all the post match reaction and thoughts from the dank depths of the Aviva over the coming hours, so keep that URL on TheScore.ie
Safe home, chin up.