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Farrell's 'ticker' challenge turned the series in Ireland's favour, insists Larmour

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

In the wake of Ireland's first Test defeat to Australia, defence coach Andy Farrell laid down a challenge to the Irish players, saying "now we'll find out what the good old-fashioned Irish ticker is about".

That was the public version; behind the scenes the dual-code former England international delivered his message loud and clear and he got the response he wanted, particularly in this final Test victory.

The Six Nations champions may have been on their last legs, but they delivered a defensive performance to remember in Sydney, restricting an excellent Australia attack to a solitary try and holding out through a nervous last quarter to claim the series. Doing so after losing the opener was all the more impressive, and Jordan Larmour said Farrell's intervention was key.

"That was a turning point in the tour… rugby is about the collisions and if that is being questioned, it is a bit of an insult," he said.

"Everyone takes it to heart, everyone wants to put that right, so when Andy said that, it gave us a kick up the backside - we knew we had to step up and we had to produce. We spoke about it during the week. We showed in the last 10 minutes, when they were coming at us… all the boys dug deep, we are delighted to get the win.

"They were coming hard, they have lots of pretty physical men, and they were just coming at us, phase after phase, and a lot of our boys were putting bodies on the line, trying to keep them out.

"We talked a lot about our physicality being questioned in the first Test and we wanted to right that wrong, that was driving us on.

"It takes a few moments to get back in control of games. Every one of us has a cool head and we know our process, our game plan, and once we stick to that, we know it will work out."

At the end of a finale that almost defied analysis, the men in green could celebrate one last time. Of all their wins in this glorious season, this was perhaps the gutsiest.

Joe Schmidt conceded that one more Test might have been a bridge too far after he lost Rob Kearney and Peter O'Mahony to injury during the third thrilling clash of this epic series.

There has been so little between these teams that neither could begrudge the other if they'd lost the series and, while the role of referee Pascal Gauzere is dominating the airwaves in Australia, it is the reaction to adversity that will please the tourists the most as they celebrate a series win.

"With rugby you never know what is going to happen, so you have to prepare for everything," said Larmour, who played a big role off the bench.

"The coaches do a really good job with that. Through the week, they give you different scenarios to deal with.

"That stands to you when you lose your captain, and other injuries - all the lads just step up and take over. And they do that really well. It is seamless."

That preparation helped Ireland through a closely-fought first half and in particular it came to fruition when Jacob Stockdale was sent to the sin-bin for leading with his elbow on Nick Phipps.

Bernard Foley put his side 6-3 in front with the penalty, but if Australia intended on building on the lead they were to be disappointed as Ireland managed 84% possession and 98% territory over the next 10 minutes and were unfortunate to come away with only three points.

When Stockdale returned, Israel Folau was heading to the sin-bin for taking O'Mahony in the air, and Ireland got to the break 12-9 in front.

They made their move after the break, with a cleverly worked maul try scored by CJ Stander, but their commanding position didn't last long and when Marika Koroibete powered on to Foley's superb chip it looked for all the world like the home side would kick on to win.

Instead, Ireland clung on for a white-knuckle ride to the finish, with Sexton getting up from a huge hit to nail a fortuitous penalty.

It came down to a TMO call on whether Stockdale had touched Foley's pass before it evaded the three gold jerseys and flew into touch. The Ulster winger insisted it hadn't, the referee agreed and Ireland could celebrate a superb series win.

Belfast Telegraph

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