From the point of view of unearthing new talent, the performance from the Subiaco Oval will probably have pleased Eddie Jones more than his Irish counterpart.
From the point of view of unearthing new talent, the performance from the Subiaco Oval will probably have pleased Eddie Jones more than his Irish counterpart, Eddie O’Sullivan. Going into this game O’Sullivan probably knew more or less what to expect from his players while Jones may have had question marks about several new players. The Wallaby coach awarded a first cap to Morgan Turinui with his centre partner Steve Kefu making just his second appearance in the Wallaby jersey. And it was Kefu who made the greater impression, particularly in the second half when he scored a try and was a constant threat to a hard pressed Irish defence.
The jury will remain out on Turinui and remain out a little longer to decide about Wendell Sailor who saw precious little ball but the one they were all raving about – and rightly so – was out-half Elton Flatley. The number 10 was seen very much as an, “ah you’ll do” option in the absence of Stephen Larkham but against the Irish, the Queensland Red was a revelation. Not only did he carry out his primary function superbly, he returned a 100% kicking average, his defence was outstanding, embellished by that 65th minute tackle on Dempsey when it seemed the Irish full-back simply had to score. Flatley and Kefu will be facing the Irish again later in the year.
Elsewhere, George Gregan simply confirmed what was already known, that he is the best scrum-half in the world at present while up front David Lyons had a big game and is another who Ireland will have to plan for come the autumn.
From an Irish point of view, Victor Costello was superb – particularly in the opening half – until seeming to tire in the final quarter while Geordan Murphy looked to be the one Irish back whose skills could be accomodated in the Wallaby ranks. Murphy is lightning fast and whenever he gets the ball there is a tingle of anticipation all around, a tremor of fear in the oppostion.
From where O’Sullivan sits there was probably too many errors, unforced or forced. Too much ball coughed up in the tackle and far too many first time tackles missed. But with sixty minutes gone and even though they were 15 points adrift, the Irish were not out of this match.They weren’t going to win from there but they weren’t done yet.
Not until Flatley’s tackle on Dempsey. And given that they had arrived here at the end of a long international and domestic campaign, it was probably understandable the tiredness shone through in the closing stages. Probably tired minds as much as tired muscles. They players will know better than anyone that the mistakes they made cost them dearly but they can take heart from some of the passages they put together and look forward to their return to Oz in the autumn – after a well deserved rest.