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Schmidt's Ireland cling on to secure thrilling series success in Australia

The tourists endured a nailbiting endgame in Sydney but emerged with victory.

Australia 16

Ireland 20

Murray Kinsella reports from Allianz Stadium, Sydney

WHILE THE REST of us would happily watch another couple of Tests in what has been a brilliant series between Ireland and the Wallabies, Joe Schmidt’s side met the final whistle in Sydney with utter glee and no little sense of relief.

Conor Murray and Jack McGrath celebrate CJ Stander's try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The drama was almost unbearable in the decider, with a nailbiting TMO review at the very end looking at whether or not Jacob Stockdale had made contact with the ball and knocked it on as the Wallabies attempted to steal the win.

TMO Ben Skeen couldn’t find anything clear and obvious to show Stockdale had knocked the ball on just as the Wallabies seemed set to score, however, and Ireland were able to celebrate.

With a new ground record crowd of 44,085 at Allianz Stadium, Irish supporters endured that agonising end game but Schmidt’s men clung on to secure their first series success on Australian soil since 1979.

It caps a stunning season, Ireland following up their November clean sweep and Grand Slam with a superb series victory Down Under.

Schmidt will wait until the end of the year to make up his mind about whether or not to extend his contract beyond the 2019 World Cup but this latest success ensures Ireland are building very nicely towards that global tournament.

It took until the very death of this sensational third Test for Ireland to copperfasten their victory, with Johnny Sexton showing real composure to hammer over a 79th-minute penalty to push Ireland out to 20-16 after taking punishment in contact all night from the Wallabies.

Michael Cheika’s side did regain the restart, however, and launched one more thrilling attack that looked destined to end in a Wallabies try as Bernard Foley attempted to pass to an overlap wide on the right but the ball flew into touch.

Peter O'Mahony leaves the pitch injured Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Irish contingent at Allianz Stadium exhaled in relief and joy as the TMO review fell in their favour, while the Wallabies will feel hard done by.

Ireland had been around 25 minutes late arriving to the venue before the game, their bus delayed en route, and though Schmidt said his players had been put “out of kilter” during his pre-match interview, they didn’t seem too unfocused when the game finally kicked off.

A yellow card for Jacob Stockdale in the first half could have been more costly but Ireland managed to come through that period with a 3-3 scoreline, and with Israel Folau yellow-carded by referee Pascal Gaüzère before the Ulster wing’s return from the sin bin.

Ireland coped with the loss of captain Peter O’Mahony in the first half, although the Wallabies also lost their leader, Michael Hooper, early in the game.

Sexton was superb at out-half, as ever, while Conor Murray was composed at scrum-half, CJ Stander worked tirelessly, Jack Conan led the tackle count with 20, and Bundee Aki delivered a huge shift in the midfield.

A Stander try from a close-range maul early in the second half proved to be crucial, while Sexton kicked the other 15 points from the tee.

The Wallabies met an excellent Irish defensive effort and only managed a second-half try through Marika Koroibete, but they will surely feel that this was one that very much got away from them.

Israel Folau and Peter O'Mahony contest a restart Source: Photosport/Stuart Walmsley/INPHO

The first-half was low-scoring but utterly absorbing, with big moments seemingly every minute in another highly-physical contest.

Ireland first off the mark as Sexton’s penalty punished Wallabies lock Adam Coleman for failing to roll away, but Folau was already showing his aerial ability as he regained the Wallabies’ opening two restarts over O’Mahony.

Foley levelled the game in the 13th minute when Ireland’s backline edged offside soon after a superb kick from Kurtley Beale forced an error from Rob Kearney, the fullback gathering the ball and crossing his own tryline before stepping into touch-in-goal to give the Wallabies a five-metre scrum platform.

David Pocock showed his class with two turnovers in two minutes on the next two Ireland attacks – the first coming at the end of a promising 17-phase passage in the Wallabies 22, although he looked to be off his feet for the second.

In between Pocock’s steals, the Wallabies lost captain Hooper to a hamstring injury – suffered in a big clearout by Tadhg Furlong.

Ireland lost Stockdale to the sin bin just after the quarter mark, a TMO review showing that the Ireland wing had used his elbow to fend when carrying into a Nick Phipps tackle and referee Gaüzère not hesitating in reaching for his yellow card.

Johnny Sexton kicks a penalty Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

But Ireland came through that 10-minute period of the game with a creditable 3-3 draw, Foley and Sexton again exchanging penalties, while Murray missed a long-range effort.

And just before Stockdale returned, the Wallabies lost Folau to the bin. Again, he appeared to have won a restart over O’Mahony but the TMO review showed that his left hand had pulled at the Ireland captain in the air, resulting in O’Mahony landing on his back.

Folau headed for an unwelcome 10 minutes in the bin and though Ireland lost captain O’Mahony to a failed HIA, they soon pushed back in the lead with another Sexton penalty, though they felt they should have had more.

Murray sniped at the tryline from close-range and Coleman was in an offside position as he prevented a possible score, but Gaüzère was happy with a penalty.

The Wallabies forwards took Ireland apart with a big maul soon after, and then Ireland came offside again on the next attack, with Foley making it 9-9 from the tee.

But there was still time for Ireland to nudge back in front as Dane Haylett-Petty knocked on the restart due to Kearney’s aerial pressure and Samu Kerevi gathered it in an offside position, allowing Sexton to slot his fourth penalty with the clock two minutes in the red.

CJ Stander scores a try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland had the perfect start to the second half, with a clever kick from Sexton allowing Aki to hound after it and tackle the covering Phipps, with the ill-disciplined Coleman hammering into the subsequent ruck from the side and without any wrap of the arms.

Ireland sent the penalty into the left corner and after their first maul was collapsed by the Wallabies, their second effort was unstoppable.

Jordi Murphy – on for O’Mahony – won the ball at the tail of the lineout and the Irish pack rapidly drove forward and infield to surge over, Stander touching down at the tail of the lineout and Sexton missed the conversion to leave it at 17-9.

The Wallabies responded strongly, though, with Phipps winning a turnover penalty and then the home side’s pack winning an important scrum penalty that allowed Foley to kick them into the right corner.

Their first attack ended with Folau dropping the ball wide on the right, but Murray was then ahead of Stockdale as he kicked the ball clear, leading to another penalty.

The Wallabies took 13 phases to strike, losing major ground to Ireland initially, but then Foley produced a sublime diagonal grubber kick behind the defence for Koroibete to stride onto, gather and bash through the tackle efforts of Kearney and Sexton.

Foley converted off the inside of the left post to draw the Wallabies to within one point, then replacement tighthead Taniela Tupou and hooker Tolu Latu – on at half-time – began to make their physical presence felt.

Bernard Foley with Conor Murray Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Cian Healy, on the other hand, was penalised at the scrum soon after his introduction and the Wallabies threatened in the Ireland 22 yet again, leading to Henshaw being pinged for a high tackle on Folau.

Though the penalty was wide on the right, Foley had a shot at goal and missed to the left of the posts to leave the Wallabies still trailing with 13 minutes to go.

Kerevi made a big bust off a scrum attack soon after, breaking Sexton’s tackle, but when replacement scrum-half Joe Powell fired the ball left following Murray’s trackback tackle, it was low and Foley knocked the ball on.

Sexton, apparently tiring, was picked off by Beale as Ireland attempted to hold onto possession but Aki’s big counter-ruck turned the ball back over.

There was time for much more drama, even after Sexton showed his class to nail his 79th-minute penalty, but Ireland – after the TMO’s intervention – got over the line.

Australia scorers:

Tries: Marika Koroibete

Conversions: Bernard Foley [1 from 1]

Penalties: Bernard Foley [3 from 4]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: CJ Stander

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [0 from 1]

Penalties: Johnny Sexton [5 from 5], Conor Murray [0 from 1]

AUSTRALIA: Israel Folau (yellow card ’32); Dane Haylett-Petty, Samu Kerevi, Kurtley Beale, Marika Koroibete (Reece Hodge ’69); Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps (Joe Powell ’61); Scott Sio (Tom Robertson ’61), Brandon Paenga-Amosa (Tolu Latu ‘HT), Sekope Kepu (Taniela Tupou ’56); Izack Rodda (Ned Hanigan ’72), Adam Coleman (Rob Simmons ’46); Lukhan Tui, Michael Hooper (captain) (Pete Samu ’17), David Pocock.

IRELAND: Rob Kearney (Jordan Larmour ’58); Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale (yellow card ’21); Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath (Cian Healy ’56), Niall Scannell (Rob Herring ’56), Tadhg Furlong (John Ryan ’67); Devin Toner, James Ryan; CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Jordi Murphy ’31), Jack Conan (Tadhg Beirne ’69).

Replacements not used: Kieran Marmion, Ross Byrne.

- This article was updated at 1.45pm Irish time to correct an error that stated Johnny Sexton had converted CJ Stander’s try. 

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Murray Kinsella

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