4 Dec, 10:19
Grand Slam winners Fiona Coghlan and Nora Stapelton have returned the Women's RBS 6 Nations trophy to Chief Executive John Feehan at the Six Nations offices in Dublin.
A debut try from Luke Fitzgerald helped Ireland 'A' go 11-0 in front but Australia 'A' bagged three second half tries to come from behind and pip the hosts at Thomond Park.
'A' INTERNATIONAL: Wednesday, November 15
IRELAND 'A' 17 AUSTRALIA 'A' 24, Thomond Park (Att: 6,500)
Scorers: Ireland 'A': Try: Luke Fitzgerald; Pens: Jeremy Staunton 4
Australia 'A': Try: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Morgan Turinui, Stephen Hoiles; Cons: Cameron Shepherd 3; Pen: Shepherd
First Half: Some good early pressure from the Irish pack yields a penalty, 45 metres from goal, which Wasps out-half Jeremy Staunton converts for a fifth-minute lead for Michael Bradley's men. Staunton adds another lengthy penalty, two minutes later, as the hosts go 6-0 up.
Ireland 'A' have dominated the early stages so far and on 14 minutes, Leinster's Rob Kearney is unfortunate as he has a try ruled out for a forward pass.
The Irish get in for their first try, right on the 30-minute mark, and it is the new boys who combine for the score, with John Kelly also showing a good pair of hands in the build-up. A barnstorming break from Stephen Ferris sets up Leinster's teenage talent Luke Fitzgerald, who ran a great support line and got past Drew Mitchell to dot down in the corner. Staunton misses the conversion but Ireland are now 11-0 ahead.
There has been little to fault so far from an Irish point of view. Bradley's charges, whose defence has been stout, have had the majority of the possession. The visitors have only been in the Irish half on two occasions so far. But on 37 minutes, full-back Cameron Shepherd opens the Australians' account with a well-struck penalty. Ireland lead 11-3 at half-time.
...One of Ireland's stand-out performers in Limerick, Stephen Ferris goes on the attack...
Second Half: Sleepy start to the second half from Ireland as they allow the Wallabies in for a converted try - right winger Adam Ashley-Cooper is the man who has got the touchdown, seven minutes after the resumption. Shepherd converts for an 11-10 scoreline. There have been no replacements on either side so far.
Despite being under the kosh for the opening spell of the second half, Ireland regain some momentum with a penalty, awarded for a high tackle on Kelly, from Staunton after 55 minutes. The tackle offender, Aussie lock James Horwill has been sin-binned.
Tatafu Polota-Nau has been sprung from the Wallaby bench, with Moore making way. Staunton continues his excellent night with the boot as he lands a penalty from all of halway for a 17-10 Irish lead after 59 minutes.
There are changes for Ireland with the hard-working Trevor Hogan, who put in one try-saving tackle, being replaced by his former Munster team-mate Mick O'Driscoll (58 minutes) and Roger Wilson coming on for his Ulster colleague Ferris (60).
George Smith and Josh Valentine have been brought into the fray by the Aussies, with Scott Fava and Brett Sheehan making way. Horwill is back on with 15 minutes remaining and now the Irish are down to 14 men. Leinster flanker Keith Gleeson has been yellow carded for hands in the ruck close to the hosts' try line.
Ireland's defence cannot hold out as experienced centre Morgan Turinui gets over for a second Australian try in the 70th-minute. It is all to play for as Shepherd's conversion ties it up at 17-17.
It is replacement time in Limerick with Brian Blaney replacing John Fogarty as Ireland's hooker (71) and the Aussies bringing Nic Henderson into their front row for Benn Robinson (74). Mitchell Chapman is on for Horwill in the visitors' second row (76).
Gavin Duffy gets a cap late on, replacing Kearney (78). Disaster for Ireland as flanker Stephen Hoiles breaks through for a try with 79 minutes on the clock - Shepherd adds the extras and the Irish are 24-17 down. Gleeson is back on.
Rob Debney's full-time whistle rings out at Thomond Park as the majority of the 6,000-plus spectators leave disappointed with the result, but heartened by the displays of the likes of Staunton, Jamie Heaslip, Hogan, young Ferris and Fitzgerald, amongst others.
Pre-Match: The rain that has poured down for the majority of the day is easing slightly but conditions will still be difficult for Ireland 's first 'A' international of the season. Both Eddie O'Sullivan and Niall O'Donovan have taken their seats in the stand, with a number of players on show hoping to press their claims for inclusion in the senior set-up.
The 'A' level debuts of Luke Fitzgerald and Stephen Ferris will be watched with much interest.
The Australians, coached by Wallaby defensive coach John Muggleton, arrived down in Limerick yesterday and will be all out to put memories of their 24-16 defeat to the Ospreys two weeks ago to bed. One late change sees Stephen Moore, who has Irish parents, start at hooker as an injury to Brendon Cannon has meant that Tai McIsaac, who was originally named in the 'A' team line-up, is back covering in Dublin.
IRELAND 'A': Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster); John Kelly (Cork Constitution/Munster), Barry Murphy (UL Bohemians/Munster), Kieran Lewis (St. Mary's College/Leinster), Robert Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Jeremy Staunton (London Wasps), Eoin Reddan (London Wasps); Ronan McCormack (UCD/Leinster), John Fogarty (Buccaneers/Connacht), Simon Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) (capt), Matt McCullough (Ballymena/Ulster), Trevor Hogan (Shannon/Leinster), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Keith Gleeson (St. Mary's College/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Clontarf/Leinster).
Replacements: Brian Blaney (Terenure College/Leinster), Ray Hogan (Galwegians/Connacht), Mick O'Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster), Roger Wilson (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Cillian Willis (UCD/Leinster), Mark McHugh (Galwegians/Connacht), Gavin Duffy (NEC Harlequins).
AUSTRALIA 'A': Cameron Shepherd; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Morgan Turinui, Scott Staniforth, Drew Mitchell; Mark Gerrard, Brett Sheehan; Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Rodney Blake, Al Campbell (capt), James Horwill, Scott Fava, Stephen Hoiles, David Lyons.
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Nic Henderson, Mitchell Chapman, George Smith, Josh Valentine, Gene Fairbanks, Clyde Rathbone.
Referee: Rob Debney (England)
Touch Judges: Roy Maybank, Bob Mullis (both England)
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