By Bea Asprey at the Aviva Stadium
In a nutshell
Ireland were outscored four tries to nil in Dublin by Australia, who enjoyed their second Test win of this month’s tour. Fly-half Quade Cooper, reinstated by Ewen McKenzie having been ousted for the summer’s Lions series, led the attack, while Ireland’s opposing number Jonathan Sexton left the field at half-time with a hamstring injury. Both 10s had their hits and misses with the boot in the first half, and after 23 minutes Ireland found themselves 3-15 down thanks to tries from Nick Cummins and Michael Hooper. But Sexton managed to claw the scoreline back to 12-15 at half-time, before being replaced by Ian Madigan for the second half. Tries by Cooper (six minutes into the second half) and a second for Hooper sealed Ireland’s fate.
The home side’s game plan failed to get off the ground for much of the match, while the crowd looked on in near-silence for the majority of the 80 minutes as their team’s defence crumpled under the Wallabies’ pacey attack. Even more worrying for new coach Joe Schmidt was the fact that his side’s set piece was put under pressure throughout the match. Ireland lost their opening two lineouts, as both Devin Toner and captain Paul O’Connell were thwarted, and their scrum was at times annihilated by a dominant Australia pack, which operated, successfully, with seven men at the end of the second half.
Madigan replaced Sexton at half-time, and though Schmidt was quick to defend the Leinster pivot, he admitted that the team was slightly ‘rudderless’ in the second half. Madigan is a sleek operator, and won the RaboDirect Pro12 Golden Boot last season, but the signing of Jimmy Gopperth at Leinster has not helped his International cause. Schmidt said: “We do have some undercooked players. We had a man on in the second half who hasn’t played many games this season. It’s also about game time as a group, and the evidence is what the Wallabies delivered as opposed to what we did tonight.”
Star man – Michael Hooper
Australia lived up to their reputation of hurting their opposition on the floor, and openside Hooper’s exploits meant that Ireland were simply unable to generate any tempo. Though he was penalised several times, resulting in his being sent to the sin bin after 32 minutes, his influence on the game became even more apparent in his absence, as Sexton immediately capitalised on the Wallabies’ loss and was able to boot six points before half-time.
Australia head coach Ewen McKenzie: “A lot of people expected a different outcome but four tries to none is pretty emphatic. It was our first visit to this stadium and it was a tough game, but we put on a good performance. We were confident throughout the game that we could score tries, but it was our indiscipline that let us down at the end of the first half.
“Even when the scorelines have looked really unkind (against the Wallabies) we’ve been moving forward. We’ve done a lot of work off the field, and you can’t assume that things will suddenly happen. A lot of hard work has to go in first.”
Australia captain Ben Mowen: “Little things like a ball spilling on the ground and then three Wallabies diving on it, that’s how you know the desperation is there. That’s how we’ve been training all week.
“We’re not happy about the criticism that’s been slung our way because we’ve got a very good scrum. It’s becoming a big platform for us to attack off.”
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: “I can put my finger on a few different spots (that went wrong). We were no different to last week, and that’s unfortunate because you want to see improvement week on week. But there’s no more work to be done than I thought. We’re a work in progress.”
Ireland captain Paul O’Connell: “Australia have played some heavy teams in the last few months, and they will have learned a lot more about themselves than we have. The way we started the game wasn’t accurate, and that doesn’t give you confidence.
“Everyone’s got to look after themselves and lift themselves now. We’ve got a lot of believe in our coaching staff, and in ourselves, and we’ve got to make sure there’s not a repeat of this next week.”
Ireland – Pens: Sexton (4), Madigan
Australia – Tries: Cummins, Hooper (2), Cooper Cons: Cooper (3) Pens: Cooper (2)