It was, according to the official Australian website, a superb second 40 minutes by the Wallabies, who completely overran the Irish, a highly ranked Northern Hemishere side, in a fast paced game
The long, hard road to the World Cup commenced for the Wallabies on a clear and cool evening in Perth in front of a capacity crowd at Subiaco Oval, and after losing to the Irish in wet conditions in Dublin last year the home side was looking to get back on the winning side of the ledger. A moments silence was observed for the passing away of former Wallaby captain Keith Winning, the anthems sung as the last light of the winters day slipped into the Indian Ocean and the action started with a new look Wallabies lineup.
The Wallabies secured the ball from the kick off before knocking on, then the Irish mounted a strong surge from out of defence as they spread the ball wide and retained possession well. George Smith stopped the foray 5 metres out, but the clearing kick failed to find touch and back they came.The Irish drew an early penalty which Humphreys banged over for the lead.
The Wallabies responded well, Roff chipping ahead down the left wing where Latham arrived in a dead heat with the Irish defender – he reached over the top to touch the ball as the Irishman tried to ground it but the ref was happy to ignore Lathams claims.The Wallabies continued to attack, they drove towards the right corner, first Sharpe, then Lyons trying to force his way over. Play restarted with the Wallabies scrumming only metres out and trying to drive over, but they turned the ball over and it was cleared.
Latham made a solid run through the middle,
Gregan was having a great game, he was sniping around the breakdown and looking dangerous. All the play had been in the Irish half since the early penalty by the visitors, the ref having his own little whistle fest as he found plenty of infringements and the players of both sides turning the ball over often. A few high balls by the Wallabies ended with knock ons as the home side continued to provide all the forward momentum but lacked a little patience. The only Irish entries into the Australian half came from long kicks out of defence, the Wallabies obliging by running the ball back.Then in the 28th minute the Irish came forward with strong play from Dempsey, Maggs ran well and passed off to Murphy who took it up further. They were moving it swiftly and took the limited opportunity when Kefu overran his man and Humphreys sent Kelly through the gap for the try.
The Wallabies replied in great fashion immediately as Flatley cut a swathe through the defence from the restart, making 30 metres to the line to snatch back the lead.
From the restart a high tackle by Kefu allowed Humphries to bang over three more points and the lead had been reduced to one point.The teams played out the remaining 5 minutes in what had been an error ridden game and went into the break to no doubt receive words of advice from their coaches. Whilst the Wallabies held a slender one point lead at half time they would need to lift significantly in the second 40 minutes. Lineouts had been poor and scrappy, ball handling needed to be sharper and they needed to get the ball out to the wings quicker where Roff and Sailor had seen very little action.
The second half started well for the Wallabies – Steve Kefu made a charge through the Irish defence as he bobbed and weaved his way around the defenders, the Irish conceding a penalty at the tackle. Flatley obliged with the three pointer and the lead was extended to four. Neither side was playing very convincing rugby, the scrums were messy, continuity spoilt often by handling errors. In the 48th minute Latham set up a great attacking position when he kicked for the left corner but the Wallabies couldnt crack the defence who were up in their faces quickly, the visitors replying with a strong 15 metre drive out of their own 22. With only 50 minutes gone the subs started when Ireland replaced two players.
Then the Wallabies set the crowd alight when from the catch of a high ball in his own half Latham combined with Roff and Steve Kefu to make it to within one metre of the try line. The ref pinged Dempsey for a professional foul and sin binned him and the Wallabies continued their attack. It was flung wide to the left where a fast finishing Steve Kefu was slipped the ball and he slid over for an important try. Flatley’s conversion made it 24-13 before O’Gara brought it back by three a few minutes later when he slotted a penalty. Steve Kefu was on fire, he made another charge into the 22, then a minute later the older Kefu popped the ball up to Gregan on the right wing and the captain snared the ball,chipped through, recovered the bouncing ball and scored his second try of the night. Flatley’s conversion made it a 15 point difference with 20 minutes to go. The Irish now mounted a sustained assault on the Australian line as they tried to work their way back into the game. The Wallabies defence was outstanding, Dempsey dived for the line in the right corner but was short and nabbed for a double movement as he tried to make the last inches, then as so often happens, a poor pass by the visitors allowed Latham to swoop on the ball and he scorched downfield for the match sealing try. Minutes later the night turned to mud for the Irish when Flatley toed the ball into the in goal and was bumped in his endeavour to score the try and the ref awarded a penalty try!
The final few minutes were played out at a more subdued mood, the Wallabies in control of the game and dominating. It was a superb second 40 minutes by the Wallabies, completely overrunning the Irish in a fast paced game. Defence was strong and vigorous, and our attacking options varied with a six try haul a great reward for the night against a highly ranked Northern Hemishere opponent.
Next week the Wallabies play Wales, followed by England the week after – well done Wallabies, the Landsdowne Cup returns to the Wallaby trophy shelf !
(Report courtesy Australian Website).