Australian rugby fans haven’t had much to cheer about during the Super Rugby season but the national side lifted their spirits when it stopped the Irish juggernaut in its tracks.
Undefeated in its previous 12 Tests, Ireland met its match in the form of a dogged Australian side which stood up in the important moments.
Captain Michael Hooper led a team with some new additions to its forward pack, including Caleb Timu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Pete Samu, and while there were some teething problems — particularly come lineout time — the home side showed plenty of resilience to win 18-9.
The men in gold scored two tries while Ireland was unable to break an Australian defensive unit that pulled off some massive hits in the first half. The visitors had to rely on three penalty goals to make a dent on the scoreboard.
It was the least amount of points Ireland has scored against the Wallabies since 1999.
The Wallabies would have piled on even more points had it not been for a controversial refereeing decision on the hour mark that cost Israel Folau his first try against Ireland. Standing on the right wing, Folau received the ball in space after some clever lead-up work from Kurtley Beale took advantage of some tired forwards, and he raced down the touchline to score.
The on-field referee pointed to the spot but the official upstairs brought his attention to an incident that happened before the Wallabies even got the ball. Aussie back-rower Adam Coleman tackled an opponent without the ball near halfway and Folau’s try — scored when the Irish led 9-8 — was taken off him, sparking outrage among fans and ex-international stars.
“It’s official, the game’s beyond … become a joke,” ex-hooker Phil Kearns said. “That means you cannot throw a dummy in rugby anymore. The referees have lost the plot.”
Hooper complained the incident had no impact on the play that saw Australia score and while he was correct, the whistleblower said by the letter of the law he had to rule a penalty.
“This is a massive call,” former Australian five-eighth Tim Horan added in commentary for Fox Sports. “I agree with Michael Hooper — there’s no effect on the play whatsoever.”