Jonathan Sexton inspires Irish to superb win over Australia
Irish fly-half Jonathan Sexton scored 16 points as Ireland edged Australia 26-23 in a thrilling and pulsating test match at Lansdowne Road on Saturday to give the Six Nations champions a seventh successive victory.
Dublin: Irish fly-half Jonathan Sexton scored 16 points as Ireland edged Australia 26-23 in a thrilling and pulsating test match at Lansdowne Road on Saturday to give the Six Nations champions a seventh successive victory.
The Wallabies had stormed back from going 17-0 down within the first 20 minutes but two tries by Nick Phipps and one from Bernard Foley got them back into it.
However the Irish, unlike last year against the All Blacks when they lost in the final minute, held the charging Australians at bay for the final 10 minutes after two Sexton penalties had edged them back ahead.
Irish captain Paul O`Connell said: "Terrific end to the campaign - to win against two southern hemisphere teams is great for morale.
"Pity we allowed them back into the game after building a good lead but this time we showed we can hold the line like we did at the end and unlike against the All Blacks."
The famous win gave the Irish their first double over South Africa -- who they beat 29-15 a fortnight ago -- and Australia since 2006.
Flanker Peter O`Mahony won Ireland a penalty in the fifth minute and Sexton, continuing the excellent form from the South Africa match, slotted it over.
The Irish boosted by that turned on the pressure and Australian prop James Slipper was fortunate to stay on the pitch when he took out Rob Kearney in midair although referee Glen Jackson awarded only a penalty but Sexton sent it wide for his first miss in the two Tests.
Sexton, however, showed why he has been nominated for world player of the year as he produced a sublime tactical kick down the left flank, after Rory Best had won the ball, which Zebo ran onto and outpaced the Australia defender to touch down for his fifth try for his country -- Sexton converted.
There was more to come as Zebo`s fellow wing Tommy Bowe`s gamble paid off.
The veteran winger anticipated Nick Phipps`s long pass with the Aussies deep inside Irish territory and the 30-year-old just had the legs to run it back for his 28th try for Ireland -- Sexton converted for 17-0.
Phipps too redeemed himself as benefitting from an Irish mistake he took the ball just inside the Irish half, swept aside Best`s tackle and had too much pace for Conor Murray to go in under the posts -- Foley converted for 17-7.
The Aussies got within five points of the hosts just after the 20 minute mark through a highly controversial try to Foley, as Phipps`s pass looked to have gone well forward while the fly-half didn`t appear to have grounded the ball over the line.
However, to the consternation of Ireland captain Paul O`Connell and Kearney the French Television Match Official Eric Gauzins allowed Jackson to award it -- Foley perhaps unnerved by the wait missed the conversion for his first miss of the tour.
There was no disputing the third Wallaby try which was a quite beautiful team effort, debutant winger Henry Speight doing brilliantly to keep the ball in play and not go into touch.
The ball eventually came to Matt Toomua, who offloaded superbly to Foley and he passed inside to Phipps, escaping Murray`s attentions, and the 25-year-old raced in for his fourth try for his country;
Foley having rediscovered his creative side appeared to have lost his kicking boots as he sent the conversion wide of the posts to leave the sides tied at 17-17.
The Australian fly-half, preferred to Quade Cooper throughout the tour, did send the Wallabies ahead for the first time three minutes from the break as he converted a penalty from in front of the posts.
Sexton, though, deservedly sent the hosts in level at half-time with a penalty after an exhilarating opening period.
Sexton and Foley exchanged penalties early in the second-half which also saw Kurtley Beale make his first appearance since the scandal that saw him heavily fined for a crude text message to a then member of the Wallabies staff.
It was end to end gripping stuff and Kearney never one to go missing for too long attempted an outrageous drop goal from just inside the Wallaby half only for it to come back off a post.
Sexton, shrugging aside several heavy hits by the Wallabies, edged the hosts into the lead once again with 16 minutes remaining with a long range penalty as Foley gave way to Quade Cooper.
The Irish were out on their feet but somehow managed to repel wave after wave of Australian attacks as the clock wound down.