Australia entered this match after an impressive second half vs the Italians and the Tri Nations trophy to back them up. Their style, speed and form was supposed to be too much for the Irish who struggled against the Americans in their opener. Despite all that, some dodgy kicking from Sexton and later O’Gara backed by brilliant scrums from Healy, Best and Ross gave Ireland their second win (15-6), a rare upset over the stunned Wallabies.
It looked like Australia’s match in the early goings. Kurtley Beale was too hard and fast to stop and James O’Connor put the Wallabies in front 10 minutes in. Ireland looked disorganized and outmatched by Australians quickness. Australia kept playing to an advantage, feeling that the try and the breaking of the dam were just around the corner. Ireland barely got early possession and had to clear each time.
But then began the scrumming. Lacks of discipline from the Wallabies front 3 (Kepu, Polota-Nau and Alexander) and repeated penalties eventually gave the struggling Sexton a chance to put Ireland on the scoreboard. From there, things seemed to be going the Irish way, all match. Sexton scored a drop goal from inside the 22 as the Irish never risked losing an opportunity to come away with something from their attacks. O’Connor sent the teams tied at 6 into halftime.
Second Half? All Ireland. Relentless and vicious defending kept Genia and Beale from releasing the ball early, leading to turnovers, scrums and more penalties. Quade Cooper and Adam Ashley-Cooper failed to impress or leave any positive mark on the game. Their confidence and wits seemed to abandon them as hope went out the window later on. Sexton gave Ireland an early penalty in the second half, giving them a 9-6 lead they wouldn’t let go of.
Ronan O’Gara entered later on for D’Arcy and his experience and kicking (from more comfortable positions) put Ireland too far ahead. The Wallabies kicked into urgency mode, but on their two great chances, one coming while there was still a chance, failed. Once through a bad combination between the Coopers on the left side, and once with Ireland holding strong on their goal line. Later on, Quade Cooper with another one of his no look passes, nearly gave Ireland a chance to score the only try of the match. With that turnover, despite the failure to score a try, Ireland secured their win.
Earlier form and head to head results were thrown out the window. It was already said before the World Cup how Ireland can beat anyone and lose to anyone, as previous World Cups have shown. Their commitment and disciplined play, sticking to a game plan that suits their players and style, paved way for the impressive win, their first over the Wallabies in the World Cup after four defeats.
For Australia and Robbie Deans, this had to be a huge wake up call. The first half against Italy that showcased the Wallabies’ problems with scrums and uber-physical play (like the defeat against Samoa at home in July) and they continued against Ireland. Having Quade Cooper and fast wingers isn’t enough against the top teams. Being complacent isn’t an option, not anymore. Australia even failed to get the bonus losing point.