Player ratings: Close shave
OPINION: Let’s be honest. That wasn’t fun, was it?
Oh sure, the final few exchanges raised the pulse a little, but mostly it was turgid, it was trying and it was exactly the sort of performance that Andy Farrell would have wanted at some stage.
He becomes the first Irish coach to begin a World Cup year with his team at the top of world rankings.
A better team than Dave Rennie’s Australia would have beaten them. The Wallabies bossed possession in the first half but were easily repelled by a stout Irish green wall.
Young Jack Crowley started the match wearing Johnny Sexton’s No. 10 jersey after the veteran fly-half tweaked his calf in the warm up. That might have derailed the home team’s plans, though it was hard to know given their lack of ball.
The second half opened up with Ireland ultimately winning the arm wrestle. The fans won’t mind. By claiming a clean sweep of the southern hemisphere giants in 2022, Ireland has shown they can win ugly.
Daniel Gallan rates the Ireland players!
15. Hugo Keenan – 7
Was tidy at the back when asked to mop things up. Only carried four times which shows how little of the ball he had. But barely put a foot wrong in his defensive duties and made one important clearing kick just as Australia were starting to get into the game.
14. Mack Hansen – 5
A surprisingly busy evening considering the nature of the contest, but just too many sloppy mistakes mean he gets a low score. He chased well and got stuck into his battle with Mark Nawaqanitawase, but erred on a few occasions. A better carry would have seen him stay in touch when he galloped down an undefended blindside from a scrum with only 13 Australians on the park. As it was his foot touched the line as he offloaded in the tackle.
13. Garry Ringrose – 6
Like Keenan, spent most of the game on defence or feeding on scraps. When the pressure was on him he was assured. Performed well when defending in the wide channels.
12. Stuart McCloskey – 5
Not the best performance from the inside centre. Perhaps missed Sexton inside him. Ireland found their groove when he was replaced for Bundee Aki on 54 minutes which only amplified his poor show.
11. Jimmy O’Brien – 6
Mostly a spectator though helped out with some meaty clearing kicks. Four carries worth 45 metres wasn’t exactly his ideal contribution, but he did what was asked of him when called upon.
10. Jack Crowley – 7
A difficult one to score. Just 22-year-old and thrust onto centre stage after Sexton’s late injury. Then asked to wear his jersey. Are there any less obvious metaphors? He was a little shaken at first but soon grew into the game, receiving the ball flat and looking to spark an outer-wise uninspired backline. Lacked composure at times and seemed to rush things when he finally got some go-forward. Overall a handy night out until he was replaced by Ross Byrne with nine minutes left.
9. Jamison Gibson-Park – 7
Industrious as ever, his ability to keep the ball moving at speed from the back of a ruck is remarkable. But failed to help out his young fly-half at times and should cop a little bit of flak for the scrappy nature of the game. Kicked well from the box and could have had a try after running a great supporting line. If only Hansen hadn’t stepped out. Off for Craig Casey on 62 minutes.
1. Andrew Porter – 7
Excellent on defence, he made all 12 of his first-half tackles and only missed one all game. Was at the centre of a fracas (by modern rugby standards at least) at the half-time whistle, showing how much he was up for a fight. Was folded once in a scrum but otherwise rock solid at setpiece. Off for Cian Healy on 71 minutes
2. Dan Sheehan – 8
Ireland had the best line-out stats coming into this game. A lot of that is because of Sheehan. He came so close to scoring but was denied on the line. Brilliant in the loose, often sidestepping like a centre. Missed his jumper just past the hour when Australia started to get on top but that was a rare blip. A potent weapon on either side of the ball. Off for Rob Herring on 71 minutes.
3. Tadhg Furlong – 7
Received the loudest cheer of the first half when he collected a loose ball deep in his 22 and then hoofed it (yes, with his foot) to the halfway line. Maybe the best prop when things get loose, his ability to constantly link up play with short popped passes gives Ireland an edge. Off for Finlay Bealham on 62 minutes.
4. Tadgh Beirne – 5
Started brightly with some good carries and a neat step, but then disappeared as the game wore on. Holding him to his own lofty standards means he scores poorly here. For once he failed to exert himself on proceedings. Will sign off with a win from a game he’ll be happy to put behind him. Off for Joe McCarthy on 60 minutes.
5. James Ryan – 6
Assured in the line-out from both feeds, once disrupting Australia’s ball five metres from his own line. A workmanlike shift from the second rower.
6. Peter O’Mahony – 6
A couple of rookie mistakes – one high tackle and a lapse in judgment after Ireland’s maul brought them close to the Australian line – cost the flanker here. Struggled to burst through the defence but was compact when asked to do some tackling. Off for Jack Conan on 50 minutes.
7. Josh van der Flier – 7
Appeared to have a target around his neck given the number of times an Australian was penalised for neck-rolling one of World Rugby’s player of the year nominees. Didn’t carry with much menace but was carved from granite on defence. Made more tackles (26) than any other Irishman. A colossus.
8. Caelan Doris – 9
Easily Ireland’s best player. It was his busting charge that flattened Bernard Foley from a line-out and gave Ireland the go-forward that would eventually end with Aki scoring. Started the game by sacking White to win possession and he continued as he went. He canters over the gainline with every carry as if he owns that space by right. He routinely grabbed The attention of multiple tacklers when his team needed space for a relieving kick. Won a penalty on the ground after Australia had worked the ball for 21 phases. A brilliant performance.
16. Rob Herring – 6 – On for Sheehan on 71 minutes. Kept things tidy without adding that grunt that Sheehan possessed.
17. Cian Healy – 6 – On for Porter on 71 minutes. Nothing terrible, nothing great. A fair nine minutes.
18. Finlay Bealham – 5 – On for Furlong on 62 minutes. It was his silly penalty – coming in from the side – that allowed Australia to nudge the ball into Ireland’s 22 for a line-out. By the time the Wallabies left they had a try and it was level. At the tip of the pyramid, it all comes down to fine margins. He’s fortunate that didn’t cost his team a win.
19. Joe McCarthy – 5 – On for Tadgh Beirne on 60 minutes. Conceded two penalties and didn’t do much else.
20. Jack Conan – 6 – On for Peter O’Mahoney on 50 minutes. Won two line-outs and carried for almost 20 metres. Kept momentum moving in the right direction when he came on.
21. Craig Casey – 6 – On for Gibson-Park on 62 minutes. Culpable in Australia’s try after getting sucked towards the ball carrier and leaving space on his outside that was exposed. Otherwise tidy as the game opened up.
22. Ross Byrne – 8 – On for Crowley on 71 minutes. Nailed a difficult penalty kick with less than five minutes to go. Took his time as he lined it up, was told to get a move on by the referee, stepped forward and stroked it home. Check his veins. There’s cold ice running through them.
23. Bundee Aki – 8 On for after Stuart McCloskey on 54 minutes. Scored an important try on his return from an eight-week suspension. Brought a different energy once he entered the midfield. It’s not just muscle, it’s timing. A world-class performer.