by Zilia Zara-Papp
Auckland, NZ – The Tournament produced its first Tier-1 upset to the uproar of 58,678 energetic and colorful Irish and Wallabies fans at Eden Park, Auckland, on Saturday, when Ireland beat Australia 15-6 on a rainy night, all score coming from the boot.
“It felt like a home game at times.” – said Irish fly half Jonathan Sexton. – “We had a good game plan, we carried it out exactly the way we planned and we just played the conditions.”
The teams went into halftime six to six after Wallabies wing James O’Connor and Sexton failed to place two penalty kicks each in the slippery, rainy conditions. Points came only from O’Connor placing two in the 11th and 24th minutes, while Sexton placing a penalty in the 15th and a drop goal just two minutes later.
Australia tried to chance its pace of attack in the second half, but what worked against Italy in their opening game with same conditions and of an identical half-time score, Ireland’s stubborn defense was solid and in place, and the Irish team showed structure, discipline and superiority in the set pieces, that earned them game-winning penalty kicks, placed by Sexton in the 50th and replacement centre Ronan O’Gara in the 63rd and 71st minutes.
“I think they probably won that game in the scrum.” – said disappointed Wallabies scrum half Will Genia, whose side encountered an early setback, coming into the game with replacement flanker Ben McCalman, as David Pocock was ruled out on game day morning because of a back injury. – “Physically they dominated us. To their credit, they blew us off the park really.”
In their final, desperate attempt, the Wallabies could not capitalize on their pressure at the Irish try line, and Irish wing Tommy Bowe put in a last-minute scare, stopping short of scoring the game’s only try, running along the field after gaining the ball from an intercepted pass.
“You could swear you were in Dublin with this crowd” – said radiant Irish centre Brian O’Driscoll – “and it was our job to give them something to cheer about.”