Ireland have won their first series in Australia since 1979. The Six Nations champions edged the Wallabies 20-16 in the third Test thanks to CJ Stander’s try and five penalties from the impressive Johnny Sexton. Nathaniel Cope looks at how their players fared.
15. Rob Kearney 6
Tested early on by Bernard Foley but gathered the chip ahead. He also had to deal with Kurtley Beale and gave away a five-yard scrum in the 10th minute for a foot in touch in the in-goal area after one of the former Wasps man’s kicks. Took a bang to the shoulder in the 20th minute, but dusted himself off. Not his best performance and subbed off in the 57th minute for Jordan Larmour.
14. Keith Earls 6
Only really got his hands on the ball once in the first half. He competed well with Dane Haylett-Petty with the restart after Ireland’s try, but otherwise a quiet enough day for him.
13. Robbie Henshaw 7
Shifted back to the 13 jersey in the absence of Garry Ringrose. He was penalised for a high tackle on Israel Folau in the 65th minute, which thankfully for the Leinsterman Foley missed. Defensively he and Aki stemmed the Australian threat.
12. Bundee Aki 8
Returned to the team with Ringrose out and it’s a less subtle approach with him in the side. He was certainly industrious with several notable carries. Also fond of a big hit as Samu Kerevi will testify to, made in the 38th minute. Ten tackles and a turnover, a fine day’s work from the Connacht man.
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11. Jacob Stockdale 4
In for the injured Andrew Conway and quite the option to have – the 2018 Six Nations top try scorer. This was one of his poorer outings. He led with the elbow in a collision with Nick Phipps in the 20th minute and earned himself a yellow card. Rushed up in defence for Australia’s 54th minute try, with Foley kicking in behind and Marika Koroibete taking advantage. A knock on in the 67th minute too. There’s no doubting his talent with the ball in hand, 71 metres from 3 carries attests to that, but are areas of his game to work on, but at just 22 years old the potential is frightening.
10. Johnny Sexton 10
A Grand Slam, Champions Cup and PRO14 winner already this season, now he can add a series win Down Under. Key moments either side of the break from the Leinster man proved to be the difference in this match. A clever restart just before half-time which Australia – minus the sinbinned Israel Folau – failed to field properly and Ireland earned a penalty for accidental offside, to edge them 12-9 in front. His kick in behind the Australian defence in the 42nd minute left Nick Phipps isolated and earned Ireland a penalty deep in Australia’s 22, a minute later Ireland had their try. A brutal hit from Samu Kerevi with five minutes to go was a real rib tickler, but he’s used to it and responded with a nerveless 79th minute penalty to give Ireland a four-point advantage.
9. Conor Murray 8
Missed a long-range penalty in the 25th minute. Denied a try by the TMO in the 33rd minute as he dived in at the base of he posts. He had a decent tussle with Nick Phipps and would have been relieved when the Wallaby was replaced by Joe Powell. In tight games the Munster scrum half is kept on the pitch, which is mark of him, but also highlights the questions over Murray’s alternatives.
1.Jack McGrath 6
Given a start ahead of Cian Healy and had a solid if unspectacular outing.
2. Niall Scannell 7
Sean Cronin’s hamstring injury during the captain’s run handed Scannell another chance to start. An inauspicious beginning to this one with his first lineout in the 7th minute going awry, when Ireland were in a decent attacking position. His perfect throw to the tail in the 44th minute to set up Ireland’s try made amends.
3 Tadhg Furlong 7
A lively first half, including a mini break in the 15th minute. Furlong and the scrum started to struggle when Australia emptied their bench. Came off in the 66th minute.
4. James Ryan 7
One of the first names on the Ireland team sheet and this was just his 11th Test. Four carries, 13 tackles and a turnover represents another decent shift.
5. Devin Toner 7
Consistently excellent at the lineout, made the call for the throw to the tail for Ireland’s try. Did the necessary in the loose too.
6. CJ Stander 8
Was quiet in the second Test when it came to ball carrying, but he was back to normal again with eight carries in the third Test. He had a fine game and it was capped by scoring the game’s only try
7. Peter O’Mahony (capt.) 7
Switched from blindside to openside for this one and admitted in the build-up he couldn’t remember the last time he’d played in the position. A turnover in the first minute, as he continued where he left off from the second Test. Taken out in the air by Israel Folau in the 31st minute from the restart and landed heavily on his back, went off and replaced by Jordi Murphy.
8. Jack Conan 7
Ireland’s top tackler with a monstrous 20, a huge effort. Not the abrasive ball carrier in the mould of Stander, but his game intelligence marks him out.
16. Rob Herring 6
An excellent tour, a fine performance when he started the first Test and followed it with two solid appearnances from the bench.
17. Cian Healy 6
His battle for the loosehead shirt with Jack McGrath is a fierce one and he came on in the 55th minute for his Leinster clubmate. Gave away a scrum penalty in the 63rd minute. Most of his work was in defence, he didn’t get a chance to punch holes with the ball in hand.
18. John Ryan 6
Selected on the bench ahead of Andrew Porter. Came on in the 66th minute with the scrum under pressure, but handled it well.
19. Tadhg Beirne 6
Didn’t make the impact he would have liked from the bench last week, but the new Munster signing was given another chance in the backrow, did the necessary during his 12 minutes on the pitch.
20. Jordi Murphy 7
After a poor first Test, he made a solid contribution in the second when he came on at half-time. He came on in the 31st minute in the third after O’Mahony’s injury. His take at the tail set up the platform for Ireland’s try.
21. Kieran Marmion N/A
The preferred back-up to Murray in Schmidt’s eyes, but with John Cooney and Luke McGrath having fine club seasons, the Connacht scrum half is being put under pressure. Didn’t make an appearance off the bench in this one.
22. Ross Byrne N/A
Preferred to Joey Carbery as Johnny Sexton’s back-up at Leinster, but will have to wait to finally test himself at international level as Joe Schmidt elected to keep Sexton on the pitch due to the closeness of the contest.
23. Jordan Larmour 8
Finally given a stretch at full back to show his talents and he was a threat every time he got possession, he made 39 metres from his two carries – impressive stuff. Took an excellent 76th minute high ball under heavy pressure.
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