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First win on Aussie soil since 1979 sends Ireland into series decider in Sydney

Joe Schmidt’s men were much improved as they drew level after a thrilling game in Melbourne.

Australia 21

Ireland 26

Murray Kinsella reports from AAMI Park, Melbourne

IRELAND WILL TRAVEL to Sydney targetting their first series success in Australia since 1979 after a much-improved showing in the second Test saw Joe Schmidt’s side make it 1-1 in Melbourne.

This victory was Ireland’s first on Aussie soil since the second Test of that successful ’79 tour – remarkably that fixture was also on 16 June – and tries from Andrew Conway and man-of-the-match Tadhg Furlong were their first five-pointers in Australia since Brian O’Driscoll dotted down back in 2008.

With masses of vocal Irish support in a crowd of 29,018 at the beautiful AAMI Park, Joe Schmidt’s men were clinical and creative in picking apart a Wallabies team that started superbly but were ill-disciplined and error-prone.

Tadhg Furlong celebrates scoring his sides second try with Devin Toner and Robbie Henshaw Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A yellow card for wing Marika Koroibete in the first half was crucial, with Ireland scoring  13 points during his 10 minutes off the pitch, while a penalty count of 15 played a major role in the hosts’ struggles.

That said, they did score three excellent tries and mounted a late comeback effort that ensured a nervous finish for Schmidt and co.

Ireland’s returning front-liners made a notable impact, with out-half Johnny Sexton showing he is in a different class as he consistently challenged the defensive line and intelligently guided his team around the pitch.

Garry Ringrose was creative on his return in midfield, Cian Healy and Furlong helped Ireland to a much better scrum showing, while Devin Toner had some important moments at lineout time.

Niall Scannell was excellent after being given a surprise start at hooker, while Andrew Conway scored an early try from the right wing before being forced off injured in the 15th minute, although that allowed 21-year-old Jordan Larmour to gain more experience.

Tadhg Beirne made his debut off the bench for Ireland, playing 15 minutes on the blindside flank, on what was a satisfying day for Schmidt – his team far more focused and accurate than during the first Test defeat in Brisbane.

They dealt with the Wallabies’ big threats better, pressuring the kickers intelligently and cleverly impeding Israel Folau off the ball to ensure he wasn’t dominant in the air again.

David Pocock had some impressive moments at the breakdown, but it was Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony who was the biggest breakdown influence on the game, winning three turnover penalties.

There are injury worries for Schmidt ahead of the second Test as Dan Leavy only lasted until half-time on his return from a hip issue, while Conway and Healy also departed through injury.

That said, Jack McGrath was superb off the bench for Ireland before a late yellow card, which will likely have frustrated Schmidt. The Irish boss will definitely feel there is still more to come from his side ahead of next weekend’s third and decisive Test in Sydney.

Johnny Sexton with Kurtley Beale Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland made a disastrous start as they botched the kick-off reception and the Wallabies scored with their first possession, Adam Coleman link passing out the back door to out-half Bernard Foley, who cleverly darted at the line and drew in Leavy.

Kurtley Beale arced back inside Foley and took the switch pass, bursting beyond CJ Stander and then slaloming around last defender Rob Kearney to score under the posts, with Foley converting.

Koroibete’s yellow card in the sixth minute helped Ireland to recover, the Wallabies wing guilty of tipping Kearney beyond the horizontal in a dangerous tackle.

Ireland went to the corner, threw to the tail and drove their maul before Conor Murray broke off back towards the touchline and floated his pass over Will Genia’s head for Conway to gather and finish sharply in the right corner, Sexton adding an excellent conversion.

Ireland’s scrum powered to a penalty that resulted in Sexton pushing Ireland in front and O’Mahony won a questionable turnover penalty that saw the out-half make it 13 points during Koroibete’s sin bin window.

A fifth Australian penalty concession, Sekope Kepu slapping down a pass, allowed Sexton to widen the gap to 16-7 but the Wallabies finally found a response in the 26th minute.

Two penalties in quick succession from Ireland – Furlong off his feet at ruck time and Toner’s contact in the air at a defensive lineout – presented the Wallabies with a five-metre chance and their pack muscled up to earn a penalty try from the maul, Healy also sent to the bin for collapsing it.

Andrew Conway scores his sides first try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Sexton missed a long-range penalty soon after, following Caleb Timu’s off-the-ball tackle on James Ryan, while captain O’Mahony won his second turnover penalty in defence for Ireland after the Wallabies’ opted to quick-tap a penalty in the visitors’ half.

A beautiful skip pass from Ringrose sent Furlong scorching through the Wallabies defensive line coming towards half-time and though it was a thrilling run, the tighthead prop missed the chance to return a pass to Ringrose, who ran a clever support line.

Instead, Furlong attempted to float an overhead pass wide to Larmour that was batted back down to him.

Two phases later, Murray kicked the ball dead as he attempted to find Larmour out on the right. A blown opportunity.

Pocock, relatively quiet until then, finally won a turnover penalty in the minute before the break, although Ireland were frustrated that referee Paul Williams didn’t allow one final attacking scrum right at the death after Beale knocked-on.

Ireland lost Leavy to injury at the break, Jordi Murphy on in his place, and it turned out Pocock was only warming up as he won a pivotal turnover penalty close to the Wallabies’ tryline as Schmidt’s men attacked threateningly.

Cheika had opted to make two changes to his pack - Tolu Latu on at hooker and Lukhan Tui coming into the back row – as he looked to remedy their lineout issues but Toner soon had a lovely steal of an Australian throw.

Jordan Larmour makes a break Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Healy departed injured just after Latu gave up a penalty for tackling off the ball, and the Wallabies got one back at lineout time as Schmidt opted to send Rob Herring on in place of Scannell just before a close-range lineout, the Ulsterman’s throw picked off.

But Ireland manufactured a brilliant linebreak for the superb Keith Earls minutes later, one of Schmidt’s specials, and the Munster man scorched deep into the Wallabies 22, opting against passing to Ringrose and instead offloading out of the tackle to Kearney.

Herring went close on the next phase before replacement loosehead McGrath was harshly penalised for a double movement as he stretched over to score.

Ireland had been playing advantage for Pocock being offside, however, and they opted to attack off a scrum five metres out, hammering at the Wallabies defence with direct carrying before Earls almost finished brilliantly in the left corner through Folau.

He had just lost control of the ball as he looked to dot down, the TMO showed, but Ireland had again accrued penalty advantage and they went into the corner and carried once again, earning yet another penalty advantage in the process.

Murray reverse flicked a pass from the base of the ruck to Furlong and the tighthead prop surged right through the tackle of replacement scrum-half Nick Phipps to finally reward the prolonged pressure, Sexton adding the two points with another good conversion.

Beirne entered the fray for his debut with just over 15 minutes remaining, just before Murphy’s turnover penalty allowed Sexton widen the scoreboard gap to 12 points from 38 metres out.

Tadhg Furlong scores his sides second try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Wallabies could have been forgiven for thinking themselves beaten at that but they continued to carry at Ireland and McGrath’s 76th-minute sin-binning for hands in the ruck gave them a sniff of a last-gasp comeback.

From that penalty, the Wallabies burst at Ireland with intent and replacement prop Taniela Tupou forced his way over, Foley converting for 26-21 and ensuring a nervy last two minutes for Ireland.

The Wallabies broke out of their 22 and into the Irish half to put hearts in mouths but with the likes of Ringrose making excellent tackles to cling on, the Australians produced one more error, knocking-on to end the game.

Australia scorers:

Tries: Kurtley Beale, Penalty try, Taniela Tupou

Conversions: Bernard Foley [2 from 2], penalty try

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Andrew Conway, Tadhg Furlong

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [2 from 2]

Penalties: Johnny Sexton [4 from 5]

AUSTRALIA: Israel Folau; Dane Haylett-Petty, Samu Kerevi, Kurtley Beale (Reece Hodge ’65), Marika Koroibete (yellow card ’16); Bernard Foley, Will Genia (Nick Phipps ’28); Scott Sio (Tom Robertson ’72), Brandon Paenga-Amosa (Tolu Latu ‘HT), Sekope Kepu (Taniela Tupou ’51); Izack Rodda (Pete Samu ’56), Adam Coleman (Rob Simmons ’42); David Pocock, Michael Hooper (captain), Caleb Timu (Lukhan Tui ‘HT).

IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Andrew Conway (Jordan Larmour ’15), Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls; Johnny Sexton (John Cooney ’79), Conor Murray; Cian Healy (yellow card ’27) (Jack McGrath ’46), Niall Scannell (Rob Herring ’49), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’72); James Ryan, Devin Toner (Joey Carbery ’77); Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Tadhg Beirne ’65), Dan Leavy (Jack McGrath ’32 to ’38) (Jordi Murphy ‘HT), CJ Stander.

Referee: Paul Williams [NZR].

- This article was updated at 1.24pm to correct an error stating that Keith Earls’ possible try was ruled out for a foot in touch, rather than losing control of the ball.

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Murray Kinsella

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