Pocock wills Wallabies to thrilling win

by Sam Phillips

A David Pocock masterclass has willed the Wallabies to an 18-9 win over Ireland at Suncorp Stadium.

Pocock, in his first Test for 18 months, was incredible.

He was in every ruck, carried the ball over the gain line when Australia needed hard yards, bailed the Wallabies out several times with ridiculous strength at the breakdown and most critically of all, scored the match winner in the 72nd minute.

Kurtley Beale was similarly destructive in attack and the aerial artistry of Israel Folau, once again, had to be seen to be believed.

Michael Hooper played himself to a standstill, Adam Coleman was a man mountain in defence and Marika Koroibete was at his best, too, making well timed defensive reads and hammering his opponent when he got there.

While it was a well deserved win, the Wallabies were full of nervous energy in their first Test of the year - which was played in front of a 46,273 strong crowd, 

That was a positive in defence where Koroibete, Coleman and Hooper delivered several bellringers on unsuspecting Irish defenders - Koroibete thumping Conor Murray in the fifth minute to set the tone.

In attack, though, misguided cross field kicks to Folau turned over too much ball and a propensity to miss the mark when going wide with ball in hand hurt any momentum gathered while going forward.

The Irish were much the same though slightly less emphatic in defence and that resulted in missed opportunities aplenty, two Joey Carbery penalties and one shot for Bernard Foley across the first 30 minutes.

Marika Koroibete levelled a big hit on Conor Murray in the first half. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyKoroibete blew what was the best chance of the first 20, pinning his ears back and gunning for the left hand corner after Beale broke a tackle and put him away, a tremendous Jacob Stockdale try saver ensuring there were no five pointers, yet.

Some sublime Foley hands changed that in the 34th minute, flicking a pass on to Dane Haylett-Petty to put the star winger away, some very smart straightening of the attack putting Samu Kerevi metres out from the Irish line.

Foley backed up, called for the ball on the vacant blindside and Will Genia duly found him, scoring the solitary try of the first term to send the two teams into the sheds at 8-6.

CJ Stander split a Foley tackle on halfway when play resumed and set off for the line, Haylett-Petty and Koroibete matching Stockdale's spectacular try saver with one of their own to keep the Australians with their noses in front.

Israel Folau was superb in the air. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyNo less than 19 Ireland phases followed and Pocock had his head in plenty of those breakdowns, finally winning a penalty after a stack of near misses in the minutes prior.

A third Australian lineout turnover quickly undid the tireless Pocock work and after Carbery missed a simple shot a third wayward cross field kick handed the ball back to Ireland.

Pocock, again, won a turnover and after Beale cleared the Australian line Pete Samu forced a breakdown penalty with his first involvement at Test rugby level.

But Folau was punished for entering the breakdown from the side and when Pocock was also dealt with in the same fashion, Carbery put the Irish back in front, 9-8 with 25 to play.

Coach Michael Cheika responded by bringing Taniela Tupou, Tolu Latu, Rob Simmons and Lukhan Tui into the fray, Ireland returning serve with the injection of Johnny Sexton.

A brilliant Kerevi tackle then looked to have set up a Folau try, only for a farcical Ben Skeen TMO intervention to take the play back for a Coleman tackle on John Ryan two minutes earlier.

A strong 13 phase set followed for the Australians but a pair of dropped passes from Simmons and Kerevi left the Wallabies, still, one point short.

The 67th minute arrived and an Irish scrum five out from their line turned into a penalty for the Wallabies, Foley putting his side in front with 10 to play.

A spectacular Folau take from the restart then put the Australians away once more, a Genia box kick into the corner turning into a penalty and when Hooper elected to tap rather than point to the sticks, the Australians put the result beyond doubt when Pocock deservedly crashed over.

It was a deserved try for the best player on the ground and delivered a gritty, well earned win for the Australians.


Wallabies 18

Tries: Foley, Pocock

Cons: Foley

Pens: Foley 2

Ireland 9

Pens: Carbery 3