Sun, Jun 15, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Wallabies hang on for win against tenacious Ireland

AFP , MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

The Wallabies got the Robbie Deans coaching era off to a winning start, but Ireland came desperately close to bringing off an upset win at Docklands Stadium yesterday.

Australia clung on for an 18-12 victory, but their defense was under the pump to hold out the tenacious Irish in the final minutes after they lead 18-7 up to 18 minutes from time.

The Wallabies could not get away from the willing Irish, who dominated territory and possession and troubled the home side with their clever switches of play, focused around fly-half Ronan O’Gara and a swarming defense.

The Australians held on for their first win under the new coaching regime of New Zealander Deans, the first foreigner to coach the Wallabies.

Both sides scored two tries each, but it was the kicking of fly-half Matt Giteau, with two penalties and a conversion, that was just enough to get the Wallabies home.

It was poor reward for gutsy Ireland, coming to the end of a demanding 13-Test season stretching back to last year’s World Cup and on the back of their 21-11 loss to New Zealand in Wellington last weekend.

Ireland have now gone nine matches without a win in Australia since their 9-3 win over the Wallabies in Sydney in 1979.

The Irish won their previous encounter with Australia in Dublin in 2006, 21-6, but the Wallabies have won 19 of their 27 meetings.

DOMINANT

Ireland, throwing the ball around at every opportunity, dominated possession and territory in a breathless opening half and tested the Australian defense, but only breached the try line once.

Wycliffe Palu and Lote Tuqiri combined for Australia’s opening try to inside-center Berrick Barnes in the sixth minute, Tuqiri passing off the ground for Barnes to score.

But the Irish stormed back nine minutes later with Munster blindside flanker Denis Leamy scoring off a rolling maul close to the Wallabies’ try line.

IRELAND LEAD

O’Gara’s conversion gave Ireland the lead, but it did not last long with lock James Horwill scoring on his Test debut after Matt Giteau’s dazzling footwork created the scoring opportunity.

Giteau added the extras for a 12-7 advantage and put his team further ahead with a 27th-minute penalty goal.

The Irish lost open-side flanker Shane Jennings with an arm injury, bringing Stephen Ferris into the game.

Ireland continued to ask questions of the Australian defense and opted for a quick tap instead of a penalty kick to attack the Aussie line before the clock beat them at halftime.

A loose pass from center Paddy Wallace was toed through by Stirling Mortlock and Australia won a penalty when they forced Ireland offside in a maul for Giteau to land his second penalty and an 18-7 lead minutes after the resumption.

But the Irish refused to throw in the towel and had several great scoring chances before skipper Brian O’Driscoll scored in the 62nd minute.

O’DRISCOLL TRY

Fullback Robert Kearney and winger Tommy Bowe combined down the left to give O’Driscoll his scoring opportunity and he obliged to edge the Irish to within six points.

The Wallabies had to dig deep to pull out the win in their first outing since bowing out to England in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup in Marseille last October.

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