Ross Byrne celebrates his match-winning penalty. Alamy Stock Photo

'Ross came up to me with a little smile on his face, I knew that was a good sign'

James Ryan was delighted to see his Leinster teammate Ross Byrne nail a match-winning penalty against Australia on Saturday.

A TESTING NOVEMBER window ended on a winning note for Ireland, but the manner of Saturday’s 13-10 defeat of the Wallabies will ensure Andy Farrell’s players head back to their provinces knowing there is plenty of room for improvement.

This was a gritty, hard-earned win against an Australia side who brought huge physicality and did a good job of slowing down Ireland’s ball. Farrell was pleased with the character his players showed in sticking in the fight and grinding out the win, with victory sealed by Ross Byrne’s late penalty, but overall it was a frustrating performance. 

“We definitely weren’t at our best,” said Ireland second row James Ryan.

“Huge amount we could be better at. Our discipline was pretty poor, we just gave away silly penalties and that gave them a lot of access into our half. But we’re very pleased that we were able to grind out a win, particularly the way the game ebbed and flowed.

“Obviously they went level in the last 10 or 15 minutes, but we were very pleased that we didn’t panic, and stayed in the fight and got the win and got a penalty on the right hand side of the pitch.

Ross came straight up to me with a little smile on his face and I knew that was a good sign, he had unbelievable confidence, unbelievable bottle to come in late and be 24th (man) and come onto the bench and then into the game and kick the winning penalty. It was brilliant.”

After the game Byrne described his match-winning kick as a career highlight. Ryan reveals that in the heat of the moment, his Leinster teammate was calm and confident about taking on the pressure kick.

“So we had a penalty and I didn’t even have to make a call,” Ryan continued.

ross-byrne-after-kicking-the-winning-penalty Ross Byrne and James Ryan watch on as Byrne's late penalty sails between the posts. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

“He came up to me with the ball and had a smile on his face. And yeah, it’s just he’s very confident player, and I knew when I saw that, there was a very good chance that he would knock it between the sticks. He’s a very confident player, it’s one of his strengths, I was delighted for him to come in late and come onto the pitch and knock over the kick was brilliant.”

It marked a winning end to what has been a brilliant year for Farrell’s squad, with Ireland beating New Zealand, South Africa and Australia in the same calendar year for only the second time.

“It’s big for us. I think they’re all important milestones on the way. Over in New Zealand it was important for us to beat a team like that in their own backyard, it was big for us.

“And then to beat teams at home here in November was important for us. So we’re in a good spot but every game you have to keep improving.

“By the time the Six Nations comes around, we’ve got to be hungrier than ever because every other side will be getting better and improving. For us, the Six Nations is the next thing now. Obviously we’ll enjoy tonight and when we look back in a few weeks, but then as I said, we’ve got to keep improving and keep getting better.”

The encouraging thing is that there does seem to be room for improvement. After all three November victories, Farrell and his players have highlighted areas they felt they could have been better in. 

Less than a year out from the World Cup, it’s not a bad place to be.

(We’ve) got to keep improving because when you come up against the very best sides like we saw tonight (against Australia), like we saw a couple of weeks ago with South Africa, there is so little in the game, it’s really fine margins, tonight could have gone another way.

“But others will keep getting better so we have to keep making improvements that will drive us forward and as I said, off the back of tonight, we have to get better, especially discipline.

“The last few weeks has been a good block for us good to see some new caps, Joe McCarthy winning his first cap, Jack Crowley coming in and doing a great job, so it’s been great from that respect as well. Hopefully that will kind of build depth we’re looking for.” 

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