2022 Ireland vs Australia

Ireland Ends Year On A High, Australia Closer To Worst Season On Record

Ireland Ends Year On A High, Australia Closer To Worst Season On Record

It wasn't pretty, but top-ranked Ireland managed to maintain its perfect autumn record with a tight 13-10 win against Australia.

Nov 21, 2022 by RugbyPass
Ireland Ends Year On A High, Australia Closer To Worst Season On Record

It wasn't pretty, but Ireland managed to maintain its perfect autumn record with a tight 13-10 win against Australia. 

It's been a stellar year for the men in green, which began with them pushing France right to the edge in the Six Nations, and it peaked when they made history in the summer, besting the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time.

Andy Farrell's insurmountable army still tops the World Rugby rankings and, whisper it, is one of the form teams heading into a World Cup year. 

Their balance of attacking variety, speed of distribution and ball-handling skill among forwards truly are commendable and the combination has transformed the side into a front-foot behemoth.

Unfortunately, on Saturday night, very little of that was on display. In fact, fans in attendance at the Aviva Stadium were offered a slow, drab test match, which at times, dulled the senses. Anyone expecting a host of tries was duly mistaken.

What played out was a game of cat and mouse, as both outfits tried to outsmart the other. 

Ireland lacked the attacking frivolity it usually possesses, which was to be expected, after the talismanic Johnny Sexton was ruled out in the warm-up because of a calf injury.

The fly-half may be 37 years of age, but he remains the fulcrum of the Irish attack, orchestrating possession like a grandmaster. In his absence, Jack Crowley filled in, making his first career start for Ireland.

Highlights: Ireland Vs. Australia

The young Munster back made his international debut off the bench against Fiji a week prior and, to his credit, did not shrink in a testing atmosphere, albeit against a team in ill-health.

The last year has been less than ideal for Australia. 

After losing their summer series to England, the Wallabies experienced a turbulent campaign in the Rugby Championship, before losing to Italy for the first time.

Following their loss in Dublin, Australia heads to Cardiff to face Wales, needing a win to avoid equaling their worst calendar year of the professional era.

This isn't all of their own making, however.

Injuries have crippled Dave Rennie's side and left it scrambling. That being said, they put up a good fight against Ireland and could have tipped it at the end.

Crowley's penalty brought the only points of the first half. Australia thought it had surged in front when Nic White darted through a gap, but the try was ruled out for Dave Porecki's neck roll on Josh van Der Flier.

The Wallabies eventually got off the mark when Bernard Foley slotted a penalty, but the crowd had to wait until the 66th minute to see a try. The physically imposing Bundee Aki was the creator, bundling his way through defenders from short range to give Ireland a slender lead.  

The visitors responded with a try of their own, finished off by Jordan Petaia, following a nicely executed attacking move by the Wallabies. With the scores once again level, the test was there for the taking.

Substitute Ross Byrne, who was drafted in last minute to fill the slot left by the injured Sexton, filled the mantle of match-winner, showing poise to land a 77th minute penalty. 

Australia had the chance to convert a penalty late and even the proceedings, but instead opted to kick for the corner, a decision they came to rue after conceding a penalty shortly afterwards.

The win for Ireland was a record-tying 12th successive home victory, but it was far from iconic. Without Sexton, Ireland was a completely different side, lacking dynamism in attack, which has become the team's trademark. 

Arguably the biggest controversy of the game came in the 48th minute, when White looked to be concussed, after suffering two blows to the head in quick succession. When getting examined by an on-field physio, the Australian scrum half appeared off balance and was called in for a head injury assessment.

It didn't take long for him to return pitch-side, after being cleared by medical practitioners. 

The decision angered Progressive Rugby, a rugby union lobby group working to better player protection. The organization commented on Twitter: "It's irrelevant if White was knocked out. We say he clearly demonstrated Category 1 symptoms of potential brain injury under the HIA framework, so he must be immediately and permanently removed.

"That he passed a HIA only serves to further question its validity. White, clearly unsteady and dazed, instead underwent a HIA and was returned to the field. This further deepens our concern about the HIA protocol and whether it is fit for the purpose of properly protecting players."

Speaking after the game, White insisted the right call was made.

"I was pulled off by the physio to do a HIA," he said. "I passed my HIA, I went back on. I remember everything, clear as day, I feel fine. I feel good. You guys can attest to that."

Written by Stefan Frost