Ireland capped a hugely impressive Autumn Series with an edgy win over an improving Wallaby side to leave Joe Schmidt's side with high hopes of a successful 2017
By Whiff of Cordite
Ireland completed a memorable November series with a gritty win over the Wallabies on Saturday – with the falling bodies, it was a game reminiscent of the French game in the World Cup, or even the Italian fiasco that ended Declan Kidney’s tenure in 2013. The team hung in there during a disastrous third quarter where Australia were rampant, and the replacements in the pack gave critical momentum when it mattered. It had classic Irish Moral Victory written all over it, until it didn’t. So time for our quintuplets of educational happenings.
Ireland became the first team to beat each of the traditional Southern Hemisphere big three since England in 2003, and it’s a signature of the level Ireland are now playing at. Sure, South Africa are useless, but they were in 2003 too, and beating the All Blacks is itself good enough to put you in the conversation as one of the elite.
No-one is naïve enough to think the ABs aren’t the best around, but there is a second tier of England, Australia and now Ireland just behind. The challenge now is going to be backing up those lofty November achievements in March – anything but winning the Six Nations will now constitute a disappointment, given we face England in Dublin.
Best in class coaching
When Jared Payne went off, Ireland had Kieran Marmion on the wing and Joey Carbery at full-back – a perfect storm of tiny, inexperienced replacements. We’ve expressed scepticism about Marmion’s credentials as an international scrum-half, but his defence as a wing was absolutely awesome.
He was terrific with his positioning, made six tackles, and put in a technically perfect tackle on Israel Folau. Marmion’s cameo, and Carbery’s too, show how top-class technical coaching and intelligent players can compensate a defensive system for losses of the calibre of Kearney, Trimble and especially Payne.
A star is born
The way a slippery, willowy Garry Ringrose ran back and through a small gap in the Wallaby defensive line to score a terrific try set many tongues-a-wagging and reminded people of ‘you-know-who‘ (spoiler: his initials are BOD).
Ringrose was playing out of position, against one of the best teams in the world, and yet rarely put a foot wrong. This young fella is going to be around a very long time indeed.
Depth at the coalface
Now, Australia are hardly known for their teak-tough tight five forwards (James Slipper has 70 caps! Seventy!!), so this must be put into context. Still, Ireland were missing Sean O’Brien, Donnacha Ryan and Jordi Murphy from the matchday 23, yet had the ability to send on big men to make a big impact.
Cian Healy and Peter O’Mahony were notable contributors to the Earls try, and the pack minced the replacement Aussie props on a couple of occasions. As against the All Blacks in Chicago, the bench turned the tide – it’s a nice habit to be able to get into.
Bad luck with the officials
On Sunday, confirmation came that Dean Mumm had been cited for dumping Tadhg Furlong on his head on Sunday. It looked a likely red until a bizarre conversation about dynamic driving into the turf, in concert Nigel Owens pushing for a yellow.
Mumm looked mighty relived but it meant, judging by citings, Ireland have now had four red card offences in four Tests against Southern Hemisphere teams (le Roux, Sam Cane, Malakai Fekitoa and Mumm) punished by three yellow cards. Are Ireland a bunch of mugs whose players get no protection from officials? Or merely unlucky?