Bundee Aki and Ross Byrne give Ireland a hard-fought win over Australia | Fall Nations Series
Ross Byrne notched a dramatic late penalty as Ireland overcame the loss of captain Johnny Sexton to cap a stellar year with a scrappy 13-10 win over Australia.
Substitute flyhalf Byrne netted a difficult spot kick from wide on the right just three minutes from time in Dublin to give Ireland a record 12th straight home win.
Andy Farrell’s men struggled for much of a disappointing game and could easily have ended 2022 with a serious reality check against opponents beaten by Italy last weekend.
Irish center Bundee Aki marked his return from an eight-game ban with the opening try, but the game remained in the balance in the closing stages after Jordan Petaia crossed for the Wallabies.
A difficult evening for the Irish began with the withdrawal of talisman Sexton through injury, his assistant Jack Crowley scoring five points on his first Test start before Byrne, who was brought to the bench in the 11th hour, proving to be the game winner.
Ireland’s victory saw them become the first nation to defeat New Zealand, South Africa and the Wallabies in a calendar year since England in 2002.
Sir Clive Woodward’s men won the World Cup the year after achieving that feat and it remains the ultimate goal for Farrell’s side heading into next year’s showpiece tournament in France.
On this evidence, this dream seems a distant reality.
Farrell was far from happy with what he witnessed in last weekend’s disappointing 35-17 win over Fiji and – Sexton aside – took in a host of injured players as part of eight modifications .
The World Coach of the Year would have been little encouraged by a painfully interrupted encounter strewn with sloppy errors, penalties and exchanges of possession.
Ireland defended fiercely in the face of relentless pressure for much of the opening period, including fending off 21 phases that sparked a rousing rendition of Athenry’s Fields but offered little to offer. an offensive point of view.
Australia thought they had scored a try in the fourth minute, but scrum-half Nic White’s effort was disallowed after review due to Dave Porecki’s choking on Josh van der Flier.
Crowley, wearing the number 10 shirt embroidered with Sexton’s name, calmly scored the only half-time points in the 10th minute, while rival fly-half Bernard Foley was wayward with a penalty at the other end.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie selected just five of the players who started the embarrassing 28-27 defeat at Florence.
Replacement hooker Folau Fainga’a was among the 10 men dropped and, having replaced the stricken Porecki, was sentenced in the 37th minute after Van der Flier suffered another high tackle, before Ireland number two Dan Sheehan not be retained. the line just before the whistle.
A mediocre – and sometimes irritable – Test match was in desperate need of a spark.
Irish scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park looked to have provided it seven minutes into the restart, but his score was then scored as Canberra-born team-mate Mack Hansen made contact just before a fine offload.
Australia had been briefly reduced to 13 men by this time due to Fainga’a’s temporary absence causing uncontested scrums.
The Wallabies came through a crucial period of the contest unscathed and were tied in the 56th thanks to Foley finding his range with his second penalty.
Ireland below par finally made a significant dent on the scoreboard 10 minutes later when substitute Aki came back strong by bulldozing at the end of relentless pressure that prompted the crowd to sell to finally find his voice.
Crowley added the extras but the joy was quickly cut short when Wallabies substitute Petaia broke clear to cross wide on the right, with Foley landing the tricky conversion.
Ireland looked set to settle for a rare draw, but Byrne impressively kept their composure as the world’s top-ranked side secured a ninth win from 11 Tests to end an unforgettable year in style. unconvincing but victorious.