Australia draw first blood against Ireland
Tourists gallant but defeated in Brisbane.
Australia took a 1-0 lead in their three-Test series with Ireland, ending the Six Nations champions’ 12-game unbeaten run in Brisbane.
David Pocock was the hero on his return to the gold jersey as he capped a dominant breakdown performance with the winning try in an 18-9 win and, after a physical start, it was the attacking work of Kurtley Beale and the aerial dominance of Israel Folau that did for the tourists.
Joe Schmidt took a risk by rotating his starting XV, but he will not be happy with his finishing team as they lost for the first time since March 2017.
When Johnny Sexton replaced Joey Carbery, his side were a point ahead but they lost their grip under Wallaby pressure at the end of a rip-roaring Test.
Australia took an early lead through the boot of Bernard Foley as Bundee Aki got caught offside, but Carbery drew the tourists level and then nudged them in front after Michael Hooper strayed offside.
They were not having it all their own way, however, and needed a superb Jacob Stockdale cover tackle to deny Marika Koroibeite.
Although Ireland had more possession, the home backline looked far more dangerous with ball in hand and they made that advantage pay as half-time approached.
The chance came when Rob Kearney uncharacteristically misjudged a high ball and Pocock secured possession for his side.
With Ireland scrambling, Australia moved the ball wide and Foley’s swift hands freed Samu Kerevi down the left.
Again, Stockdale covered across but this time the men in gold recycled the ball for Will Genia to put Foley over in the corner.
The out-half missed the conversion and his side took a two point lead in at half-time, the first time Ireland had been behind at that stage all season.
They almost got back in front within three minutes of the restart, but Dane Haylett-Petty somehow denied CJ Stander by holding him up after a big break.
Carbery missed a chance to put his side back in front after Australia survived a 19-phase defensive set, but he nailed a simpler effort on 55 minutes after Pocock was penalised for holding on.
That was his last act as Joe Schmidt sent Sexton into the arena.
Ireland got a major let off when referee Marius van der Westhuizen disallowed Folau’s stunning try for an earlier infringement by Adam Coleman who hit James Ryan off the ball.
It was not a popular decision among the gold-clad fans in the 46,273 crowd, but a neck roll by Ryan handed the advantage back to the home side.
Ireland’s first-choice props had come on early, but they gave up a penalty under pressure from Taniela Tupou and Foley put Australia back in front with 11 minutes remaining.
A superb Folau catch and a subsequent penalty concession from Stockdale might have resulted in a further penalty, but instead Genia tapped the penalty and he got the reward as Pocock capped a fantastic comeback after his hiatus to power over from close range.
Foley converted and, try as they might, Ireland could not muster a fightback, Kieran Marmion having a score ruled out in time added on for an earlier knock-on.