Murray Kinsella reports from Melbourne
HAVING LED BY example during the 80 minutes, Peter O’Mahony led his Ireland team to applaud the Irish support at AAMI Park after a 26-21 victory sent the series into a decider in Sydney next weekend.
Captaining Ireland from the start for the fifth time, the Munster flanker was outstanding and pushed Tadhg Furlong for the man-of-the-match award.
All the talk in the build-up to this second Test had focused on David Pocock’s breakdown threat but while he did manage to spoil some Irish possession and win a pair of steals, O’Mahony was the leading turnover merchant.
The blindside won three turnover penalties for Joe Schmidt’s side, while he also carried willingly in lots of traffic, latched onto team-mates superbly several times, as well as making a linebreak and throwing one offload.
He had five tackles in a busy performance that involved plenty of ruck row and his lineout skills were crucial for Ireland once again as he pressured the Wallabies and won some of Ireland’s throws too.
All in all, it was impressive stuff from the stand-in Ireland captain, who has led the team in both Tests in Australia in the absence of the injured Rory Best.
“It was hugely physical, hugely intense,” said O’Mahony after Ireland’s victory. “It was as expected when you come up against one of the best teams in the world, the physicality.
“Up front, we had a lot of ball in the first half and even in the second half, there was a lot of breakdown stuff so it was a very challenging, physical game.”
Ireland did appear to manage the threat of Pocock and Michael Hooper around the breakdown better, although O’Mahony feels there is still room for improvement.
“I think it was somewhat better,” said O’Mahony. “I still think they get in there and get a couple of turnovers but it’s hard playing against two of the best in the world at that game.
“We’d be happy with some of the improvement we’ve made but it’s certainly an area for us to continue to work on to target those type of guys.”
Schmidt will welcome the fact that Ireland’s performance, while much improved on the first Test, leaves him with lots of scope to pick out flaws that will motivate his players in the final training week of their seasons.
A dead rubber in Sydney would have been a huge shame and this series has been a brilliant spectacle that promises to serve up a thrilling finale.
Among the positives on the tour for Ireland so far has been the leadership of O’Mahony, who can now count a Southern Hemisphere scalp on his captaincy CV, which also includes a Lions Test.
Asked during the post-match press conference about his breakdown penalties against the Wallabies, O’Mahony didn’t go into too much detail.
“A couple, yeah.”
You must be pleased with that aspect of the game?
“Yeah, happy enough.”
For the Ireland captain, actions speak louder than words.
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