Ireland win thriller against Australia in Melbourne to level Test series

Johnny Sexton scored 16 points on his return to the Ireland starting line-up
Johnny Sexton scored 16 points on his return to the Ireland starting line-up
Second Test: Australia v Ireland
Australia (14) 21
Tries: Beale, penalty try, Tupou Cons: Foley 2
Ireland (16) 26
Tries: Conway, Furlong Cons: Sexton 2 Pens: Sexton 4

Ireland secured a deserved win over Australia in Melbourne to level their series at 1-1, with the decisive final Test to come in Sydney next week.

Andrew Conway and Tadhg Furlong scored Ireland's tries, with Johnny Sexton kicking 16 points as the tourists were rewarded for a dominant performance.

Ireland had not won away against Australia since 1979.

Kurtley Beale and Taniela Tupou crossed for Australia, who were also awarded a penalty try in the first half.

The hosts ended Ireland's 12-match unbeaten run with an 18-9 success in Brisbane in the first Test but Joe Schmidt's side now have an opportunity to end their Grand Slam-winning season on a high by achieving a first series triumph in the southern hemisphere for 39 years.

Ireland's victory ends a losing streak of 11 straight Tests against the Wallabies in Australia and maintains their second position in the IRB world rankings, ahead of their third-placed opponents.

Ireland recover from early deficit

Beale's second-minute try got Australia off to a flying start but Ireland took advantage of wing Marika Koroibete's yellow card as Conway dived over in the corner.

Returning fly-half Sexton converted and added three penalties to put the Irish in control but referee Paul Williams awarded a penalty try against Cian Healy for illegally collapsing the maul and sent the prop to the sin bin, leaving the score 16-14 at the break.

Ireland bossed the second half and Jack McGrath and Keith Earls both grounded over the line but had their 'tries' ruled out for a double movement and a knock-on respectively following consultations with the Television Match Official.

Furlong bulldozed his way over the line to give his side some breathing space, but McGrath's yellow card for a deliberate knock-on in the ruck on 76 minutes, followed by Tupou's touchdown a minute later, made for a nervous finish for Schmidt's men.

Forwards build platform for success

Ireland made eight changes for the game, with a strong starting line-up made up entirely of players from Munster and European Champions Cup and Pro14 winners Leinster.

Conway justified his inclusion with his first-half try before going off injured, skipping over after Conor Murray collected the ball at the back of a rolling maul and floated a pass to the Munster winger.

Ireland enjoyed the majority of territory and possession, defended resolutely and showed an increased physicality, aggression and intensity, while Sexton's influence and accuracy off the tee proved vital.

A much-changed pack built the platform for victory, hooker Niall Scannell proving efficient, Devin Toner and CJ Stander playing significant roles and Furlong making important line breaks and ensuring reward for his side's superiority in the third quarter with his 54th-minute try.

Captain Peter O'Mahony was perhaps the stand-out performer among the forwards however, affecting a number of turnovers at crucial stages of the match.

Munster-bound former Scarlets forward Tadhg Beirne made his debut as one of a raft of second half-replacements introduced from the bench.

Kurtley Beale gave Australia an early lead with his second-minute try
Kurtley Beale gave Australia an early lead with his second-minute try

Indiscipline costly for Australia

Australia coach Michael Cheika named an unchanged side as the Wallabies attempted to construct some continuity and momentum in the wake of their win in the opening Test.

Centre Beale ran a brilliant line to run onto Bernard Foley's inside pass and sprint in behind the posts early on but indiscipline proved the hosts' undoing as Koroibete was sent to the bin for a tip tackle on Rob Kearney soon after.

The loss of scrum-half Will Genia with a broken arm was a major blow and Cheika's side were unable to take advantage of their extra-man advantage as they failed to put any points on the board during Healy's 10-minute first-half absence.

David Pocock starred for the home side in a pulsating encounter, again proving a thorn in Ireland's side at the breakdown, while front-row substitute Tupou forced his way over from close range for a late consolation score.

What they said

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, speaking to Sky Sports: "We made it far too easy for Kurtley Beale to score under the sticks from the start but from that moment on we knuckled down and worked into the game. We scored a great try and that boosted our confidence. We accumulated points like we didn't last week. The third quarter was probably the turning point of the game.

"We were good at the breakdown and that allowed us to maintain the pressure. We had to defend for the last six or seven minutes and we were hanging on at the end."

Ireland captain Peter O'Mahony, speaking on Sky Sports: "Last week they taught us a good few lessons, it has taken one of our best performances of the year to beat them.

"They are incredibly proud playing here at home. It was appropriate we put in one of our best performances of the year.

"It would have been disappointing for next week to be a dead rubber. We are looking forward to assessing the game and looking at what we did well and what we can improve for next week."

Australia captain Michael Hooper: "We had no ball. It's tough to win a game like that. We know the Irish are very disciplined and they made it very tough for us. I thought they played a good pressure game and got the better of us."

How they lined up

Australia: I Folau; D Haylett-Petty, S Kerevi, K Beale, M Koroibete; B Foley, W Genia; C Timu, M Hooper (capt), D Pocock; A Coleman, I Rodda; S Kepu, B Paenga-Amosa, S Sio.

Replacements: T Latu, T Robertson, T Tupou, R Simmons, L Tui, P Samu, N Phipps, R Hodge.

Ireland: R Kearney; A Conway, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, N Scannell, T Furlong; D Toner, James Ryan; P O'Mahony, D Leavy, CJ Stander.

Replacements: R Herring, J McGrath, A Porter, T Beirne, J Murphy, J Cooney, J Carbery, J Larmour.

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