Forwards lead the way in famous Irish win
Story and Photo: www.rugbyworldcup.com
AUCKLAND, 18 Sept. - Ireland have produced the top-shelf performance they needed to beat Australia at a Rugby World Cup, defeating the Tri Nations champions 15-6 at Eden Park on Saturday.
After failing to topple the Wallabies on four previous World Cup occasions, including two one-point defeats, Ireland defied their recent poor form to claim the victory and assume control atop Pool C.
“We felt as though we owed ourselves that performance and we knew it was in us,” said Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll.
“We felt as though it was coming, it was just a matter of making it happen against the next opponent and that just happened to be Australia.”
The win was built on the back of a dominant forwards performance that nullified the much-vaunted Australian attack and earned five critical penalties from a back-pedalling Australian scrum.
“There’s no doubt that today our pack finished on top,” said O’Driscoll.
“They were definitely the ones that put us in a position to win the game.”
Australian pack wilted
The first half quickly descended into a midfield arm-wrestle in wet conditions, reflected in the 6-6 half-time scoreline, with James O’Connor kicking two penalties and Jonathan Sexton a penalty and a drop-goal.
But the Irish forwards gained the ascendancy after the break as the Australian pack wilted under the relentless pressure they applied at the breakdowns and scrum.
Ireland slotted three more penalties courtesy of Sexton and Ronan O’Gara (two) before seeing out the game with some rock-solid defence to keep the Wallabies scoreless in the second half.
“After half-time we had to be the ones that brought the intensity to Australia,” O’Driscoll said.
“Then we didn’t want to sit on our lead so we made sure we kept up the type of positive football we wanted to play for the whole 80 minutes.”
Australia coach Robbie Deans, in the aftermath of his 50th match in charge of the Wallabies, refused to be drawn on the specific failures of his team.
“We were outplayed, that simple. It doesn't really matter what elements you put it down to, we came here to play and to win and we came second,” he said.
Australian captain James Horwill conceded the Wallaby dressing room was not a happy place to be following the match and was more willing than his coach to discuss the dominance of the Irish at scrum-time.
“Just because people don’t talk up their scrum doesn’t mean it’s not a good scrum,” he said.
“They used it as a strength of theirs and it got results for them.”
The result means Australia are likely to face a tough quarter-final encounter with South Africa while Ireland will face either Samoa or Wales.
But first Australia have to regroup for their match against USA in Wellington on Friday while Ireland face Russia in Rotorua next Sunday.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney refused to label the victory the greatest in Irish rugby history but he was more than happy to make one small concession.
“It’s a good reason for a party,” he said.