Irish beat Australia 27-24, end Wallabies' Grand Slam bid

BY foxsports • November 26, 2016

DUBLIN (AP) Ireland endured a fierce fightback to defeat Australia 27-24 and end the Wallabies' Grand Slam bid at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

The Irish took an early 17-0 lead but required a late counterattacking try from Keith Earls to put them ahead for good with 13 minutes left.

The win meant Ireland defeated southern hemisphere powers Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in a calendar year for the first time.

The Wallabies, halfway to their first Grand Slam of the home unions in 32 years, blew chance after chance against a makeshift Irish backline in the second half, and was ill-disciplined again.

They came into the match having rested key players during last week's victory over France. The Irish, by contrast, were without Jonathan Sexton, Robbie Henshaw, and Sean O'Brien, and the injury list grew in the first half, as Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble, and Jared Payne limped away.

Yet Ireland dominated the opening half against the error-prone Wallabies, and finished stronger.

The Irish laid down an aggressive marker from the start, twice spurning penalty opportunities to kick for the corner - and coming up empty both times. Paddy Jackson finally was given a chance to kick and converted a long penalty to put Ireland up 3-0 after 17 minutes.

The Wallabies were forced down to 14 men as blindside flanker Dean Mumm dumped prop Tadhg Furlong on to his head during the breakdown. Soon after Mumm's binning, Ireland drove a maul into Australian territory, then substitute fullback Simon Zebo's grubber bounced up perfectly for Keith Earls. Lock Iain Henderson took the winger's offload and lunged for the tryline.

Ireland again spurned a penalty chance deep in Australian territory, and third time proved the charm. Center Garry Ringrose scooped up a loose pass on the bounce, and weaved through three defenders to touch down for the try.

Australia didn't even breach Ireland's 22 until the final two minutes of the half, then decisively seized momentum. Michael Hooper shot through a gap, and fullback Israel Folau found an onrushing Dane Haylett-Petty for the visitors' opening try. Australia within 17-7 on the final play of the half.

The Wallabies scored two third-quarter tries to reduce the 52,000-strong sellout crowd to stunned silence.

First, Australia spread the ball wide left with rapid-fire passing from Foley to Haylett-Petty, Folau, and finally to center Tevita Kuridrani, who touched down in the left corner. Foley's conversion from the left touchline pulled Australia to 17-14 down.

Jackson briefly steadied Irish nerves a minute later with a penalty after David Pocock was penalized for failing to release from a tackle to extend Ireland's lead to 20-14.

But the injury-riddled Irish found themselves clinging on for dear life against an energized Australia attack.

The Wallabies took a 21-20 lead in the 57th with more swift passing to the right wing that ended in Sefanaia Naivalu's uncontested run to the Irish posts.

But after a Foley penalty extended Australia's lead, Ireland found the strength for its own comeback blow. Zebo passed to an unmarked Earls on the wing for a try in the left corner, and Jackson coolly curled his own touchline conversion inside the right post to put Ireland back on top at 27-24.

Australia blew more chances to score and pressure, but in the dying moments, Ireland was confident enough to substitute out captain and hooker Rory Best, on the occasion of his 100th cap. He received rousing cheers, and when fulltime came soon after, it was the team's turn.

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