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The Qantas Wallabies have put in one of their best performances of the season with a comprehensive 32-15, four tries to nil, victory over Ireland in the Lansdowne Cup Test played in Dublin early Sunday morning (AEDT).
2013 John Eales Medalist Michael Hooper scored a double with Nick Cummins and Quade Cooper also crossing. But as impressive as the attack was the defence was even better, with the Men of Gold snuffing out wave after wave of Irish attack with desperate smothering tackles.
And even more pleasing was the Wallabies oft-questioned pack who dominated Ireland at scrum time winning numerous scrum penalties and even driving Hooper over at the back of a lineout maul for his second try.
It was the Wallabies first victory over Ireland in Dublin since 2005 and the first time in 2013 that they have put together consecutive Test wins.
Matt Toomua kicked off on a chilly, but dry night in Dublin, perfect for Rugby, with very light wind and the temperature hovering at 11 degrees.
The Wallabies had some positive early flourishes with Israel Folau, who was superb under the high ball all night, defusing a sky-high bomb and then Adam Ashley-Cooper almost chasing down a long Cooper kick to score but the ball just beat him in to touch.
The first seven minutes were even with the Wallabies restricted by a string of free kicks and penalties awarded against them by referee Chris Pollock and Ireland undone by repeated errors.
Cooper made it 3-0 on eight minutes with a well struck penalty from 40 metres out but Irish flyhalf Jonathan Sexton equalized on 12 minutes after a long driving maul gave Ireland good territory.
The Wallabies pack then won a scrum penalty against the feed in Ireland’s territory with a strong shove but Cooper’s penalty shot just shaved the left upright from a similar spot to his first successful effort.
But the Wallabies were on the board soon after in a perfect example of the high tempo, quick ball-movement style that Australia are developing under coach Ewen McKenzie.
The Men of Gold moved the ball quickly from side to side then James Horwill popped a neat pass to Cooper who ran wide.
The vice-captain found Stephen Moore running a perfect line in the outside centre channel and the veteran hooker did brilliantly to break the line and get a superb offload away to winger Nick Cummins who stepped inside the Irish defence to score his fifth Test try and third in a week. Cooper converted to make it 10-3 to the Wallabies.
Sexton missed a penalty on 21 minutes and the Wallabies made it count with their second try on 24 minutes.
This time it was flanker Scott Fardy ranging wide on the left who was put into a gap by Toomua. The Brumbies loose forward did well to make a half break and then pop a perfectly timed inside pass to Hooper who raced over for Australia’s second try. Cooper missed the conversion but the Wallabies were good value for their 15-3 lead.
But as good as the Wallabies attack had been their defence was even better and they repelled surge after surge at their try line. Sexton got a second penalty after half an hour but it was very little reward for all Ireland’s possession and territory.
Ireland however continued to attack and Hooper was given a yellow card on 32-minutes for an accumulation of team offences at the breakdown. Sexton added the resulting penalty to make it 15-9.
As the penalty count soared to 9-2 to Ireland, another penalty to Sexton made it 15-12 right on half time. Ireland launched a dangerous attack right on the whistle but good work from Ashley-Cooper at the breakdown snuffed out the danger.
Sexton left the field with a hamstring injury at half time with Leinster flyhalf Ian Madigan coming on.
The Wallabies were unlucky not to go further ahead on 42 minutes with Cummins adjudged to not have scored his second try by TMO Geoff Warren, although there must have been a hair’s breath in it.
But another strong shove from the Wallabies pack won them the feed from the resulting five metre scrum and moments later Australia were in for their third try.
Captain Ben Mowen picked the ball up from the back of the scrum and fed scrumhalf Will Genia who sent a long ball to Cooper, who sliced right through the Irish defence to score next to the posts. Cooper converted his own try and the Wallabies were out to a 22-12 lead.
Cooper increased the lead to 25-12 with another well struck penalty on 49 minutes, with Madigan bringing it back to 25-15 eight minutes later.
Sitaleki Timani then came on for Horwill while Joe Tomane made his way on to the field for Ashley-Cooper who was groggy after making a big tackle.
As clinical as the Wallabies attack had been it was the scrambling defence that was even more impressive as Australia continued to repel more and more desperate Irish advances.
The Wallabies fourth try would have warmed the forward’s heart as they drove Hooper over at the back of a maul from a lineout, giving Ireland some of their own medicine. Cooper converted the NSW flanker’s second try to take the Wallabies clear at 32-15.
It was the vice-captain’s last act of the match as he went off for Christian Leali’ifano. McKenzie emptied his bench with Nick White on for Genia, Benn Robinson and Paddy Ryan for James Slipper and Sekope Kepu, Liam Gill giving Hooper a well earned rest and burly Tahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau making his return to Test Rugby after almost year, coming on for Moore.
The Wallabies suffered a late setback with Tevita Kuridrani given a red card for a lifting tackle on Irish flanker Pete O’Mahony, and although Ireland did all they could against 14-men in the final minutes to get across the line, the Wallabies held firm.
The match ended appropriately with yet another scrum penalty to the Wallabies.
Australia now move on to Edinburgh where they will face Scotland at 5.00am AEDT next Sunday morning November 24th.
All Qantas Wallabies 2013 Spring Tour matches are broadcast live on Fox Sports and Channel Ten.
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LANSDOWNE CUP TEST
FULL TIME RESULT
Qantas Wallabies 32 (Michael Hooper 2, Nick Cummins, Quade Cooper tries; Cooper 3 conversions, 2 penalties) defeated Ireland 15 (Jonathan Sexton 4 penalties; Ian Madigan penalty) at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. (Half Time: Wallabies 15 Ireland 12) (Referee: Chris Pollock [NZ])