Australia brought Ireland back down to earth with a thumping 37-15 win in Perth on Saturday.
The Wallabies scored five tries to the two of the visitors, but the game only really came alight in the second half after the Aussies led 11-3 at the break.
In the first half, both teams kept it tight, but midway through the half, fullback Chris Latham score a scintillating try. While the rest of half was not that exciting it was a taste of things to come in the second stanza.
Almost straight from the restart both teams gave notice of their intention to play the ball wide and give the appreciative Subiaco Oval crowd something to shout about.
They were silenced just minutes into the half when Ireland’s Ronan O’Gara scored to close the gap to just three points. And moments later a brilliant team effort put flanker Neil Best over for a converted try and the visitors led for the first time in the match.
That advantage didn’t last as the Wallabies, superbly led by George Gregan, fought back with a vengeance. Three tries in 15 minutes shocked the Irish and took Australia out to 30-15 with a little more than ten minutes to play.
The Irish, with their captain Bryan O’Driscoll also leading from the front never gave up and could have scored a try or two in the closing minutes.
In the end a try by replacement back Cameron Shepherd put the seal on a wonderful Wallaby performance. With all their players back snd a new coach in John Connolly at the helm, the Wallabies are sure to pose a far greater threat in this years’ Tri-Nations.
Tries: Chris Latham, Mark Gerrard, Greg Holmes, George Gregan, Cameron Shepherd
Conversions: Stirling Mortlock 3
Penalties: Mortlock 2
Tries: Ronan O’Gara, Neil Best
Conversions: O’Gara 1
Penalties: O’Gara 1
76 mins: TRY A great backline move involving Smith and Stephen Larkham puts Cameron Shepherd away through a gap for another five-pointer under the poles. Mortlock converts. (5/7) AUSTRALIA 37-15
74 mins: Gregan is replaced by Sam Cordingley and gets a huge ovation from the Perth crowd.
69 mins: TRY Aussie captain George Gregan scores a try that caps a good display from the No 9. Mortlock misses the conversion. (4/6) AUSTRALIA 30-15
66 mins: Ireland are throwing everything into attack and have held onto the ball for several minutes, but No 8 Denis Leamy is penalised and the Wallabies find relief.
58 mins: TRY Greg Holmes shows impressive pace to leave Stringer in his dust as the Wallabies score again under the poles. Mortlock slots the extras (4/5) AUSTRALIA 25-15
54 mins: TRY Mark Gerrard scores under the poles. Mortlock converts. (3/4) AUSTRALIA 18-15
50 mins: Clyde Rathbone becomes the next Wallaby casualty. He leaves the field
49 mins: TRY Another fantastic effort that goes through numerous sets of hands, before flank Neil Best crashes over. This time O’Gara kicks the extras. (2/4) IRELAND 15-11
45 mins: TRY After sustained pressure Ireland are rewarded with a superb try in the corner by O’Gara. He misses the conversion. (1/3) AUSTRALIA 11-8
36 mins: Ireland penalty. O’Gara hits the upright. (1/2)
33 mins: A great attack from the Aussies should have resulted in a try, but George Smith’s pass is knocked on. Aussies have penalty for Ireland offside anyway. Mortlock makes no mistake. (2/3) AUSTRALIA 11-3
31 mins: Mat Rogers limps off the field with a leg injury.
28 mins: Ireland scrumhalf Peter Stringer retreating back throws a shocking pass and opposite number George Gregan grabs it and nearly scores, but steps into touch.
27 mins: O’Gara slots a 35m penalty to get Ireland on the board. (1/1) AUSTRALIA 8-3
21 mins: TRY After a brilliant build-up involving virtually every player in the team, fullback Chris Latham goes over untouched near the corner. Mortlock misses the conversion to the right. (1/2) AUSTRALIA 8-0
18 mins: Australia fluff a gilt-edged chance to score the game’s first try after several phases.
13 mins: Stirling Mortlock kicks a penalty after Ireland punished for infringement at the ruck. (1/1) AUSTRALIA 3-0
10 mins: Mat Rogers goes over for a try, but referee Kelvin Deaker calls them back for a forward pass.
7 mins: After sucking up good Irish pressure the Wallabies break out and creep into the visitors 22 for the first time.
1 min: Ireland’s Ronan O’Gara kicks-off.
By Andrew Hollely