Australia’s hopes of an historic Grand Slam have been ended after a heart stopper went against the Wallabies, losing 27-24 to Ireland in Dublin.
The Irish were always going to present the most difficult road block for the Wallabies’ Grand Slam bid and they proved to be just that from the opening moments, with the Wallabies trailing until the 57th minute.
It was speedster Sefa Naivalu who made the most of his longest match stint in his five Tests, crossing to help put the Wallabies in front before a Bernard Foley penalty stretched the lead to four points, but that advantage lasted for just five minutes before the home side hit back through a try to Keith Earls, with a sideline conversion from Paddy Jackson sealing the match.
Australia was left to rue some missed chances as the clock ticked down, with passes not hitting their targets or split second decisions backfiring in their desperation to keep the ball alive.
Ireland took the early momentum, heaping the pressure on the Australian defence with a marathon 17-phase effort in the opening three minutes as they took hold of possession and territory in the opening half.
The lineout was a tight battle early, with Dean Mumm stealing an Irish throw deep in attack before nearly giving up one of their own.
The fifth penalty against the Aussies in the opening 17 minutes gave Ireland’s Paddy Jackson the first points of the night and Australia’s pain was compounded after a dangerous tackle from Mumm on Ireland tighthead Tadhg Furlong left them a man down in the 23rd minute.
It took Ireland less than a minute to make the Wallabies pay with their one-man advantage, as lock Iain Henderson broke through for the opening try.
The Wallabies had just a handful of attacking opportunities and the frustration showed on fullback Israel Folau’s face when he finally made a promising break only to miss an outside pass to Tevita Kuridrani in the 28th minute.
Another passage of Irish attacking pressure led to a try for inside centre Garry Ringrose, putting Australia in a 17-point hole as halftime neared.
But some attacking continuity from the Wallabies, led by desperate efforts on both sides of the ball from Michael Hooper, helped Dane Haylett-Petty nab one back for the Wallabies, narrowing the margin at halftime to 10 points.
Wallabies winger Henry Speight went agonisingly close to another score in the 43rd minute but a David Pocock pass was ruled forward on review.
Tevita Kuridrani finished where Speight couldn’t three minutes later, going over in the corner for his fourth try in as many Tests.
Another Ireland penalty pushed the margin out once but the Wallabies’ desperation started to show as the clock ticked down.
"The late withdrawal of flanker Sean O'Brien looked like being a game changer for Ireland but O'Brien's absence was more than filled by Man of the Match Josh van der Flier, as Ireland took control at the breakdown."
Ireland’s injuries piled up during the game as well, with winger Andrew Trimble and fullback Rob Kearney both out of the game by the 31st minute.
As the second half ticked down that toll started to show for Ireland as Australia started to take control in attack, leading to a scintillating try from winger Naivalu, before Foley's penalty made the lead four points.
Earls' 66th minute try put Ireland back on top and a Jackson conversion sealed the three-point win.
The Wallabies couldn't take advantage of some late attacking chances and a 79th-minute yellow card to Foley spelled the end of Australia's chances..
The Wallabies fly to London on Sunday ahead of their final Spring Tour Test against England, who beat Argentina 27-14 on Saturday at Twickenham.
Tries: Iain Henderson, Garry Ringrose, Keith Earls
Cons: Paddy Jackson 3
Pens: Paddy Jackson 2
Tries: Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Sefa Naivalu
Cons: Bernard Foley 3
Pens: Bernard Foley 1
Yellow Cards: Dean Mumm, Bernard Foley