Irish beat Australia 27-24, end Wallabies' Grand Slam bid

DUBLIN (AP) " Ireland endured a fierce fightback to defeat Australia 27-24 and end the Wallabies' Grand Slam bid at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

The Irish took an early 17-0 lead but required a late counterattacking try from Keith Earls to put them ahead for good with 13 minutes left.

The win, what Joe Schmidt called one of his proudest moments as Ireland coach, meant it defeated southern hemisphere powers Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in a calendar year for the first time. The last team to do it was England 13 years ago.

The Wallabies, halfway to achieving their first Grand Slam of the home unions in 32 years, blew chance after chance against a makeshift Irish backline in the second half, and proved ill-disciplined again. Australia committed 19 turnovers and 13 penalties, Ireland just six turnovers and three penalties.

"Ireland deserved to win because they put us under pressure, particularly in the first half, and we fell too far behind," Australia coach Michael Cheika said. "We got away with it in Scotland but this time we didn't get enough play in the end."

Australia came into the match having rested key players during last week's victory over France. The Irish, by contrast, started without Jonathan Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Sean O'Brien and lost Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne to first-half injuries.

Yet Ireland dominated the opening half against the error-prone Wallabies and finished stronger, all the while fielding a youthful team that Schmidt quipped "looked like a creche."

The Irish laid down an aggressive marker from the start, twice spurning penalty opportunities to kick for the corner " and coming up empty both times. Paddy Jackson finally was given a goalkick and converted a long penalty after 17 minutes.

The Wallabies were forced down to 14 men as blindside flanker Dean Mumm dumped prop Tadhg Furlong on to his head. Ireland drove a maul into Australian territory, then substitute fullback Simon Zebo's grubber bounced up perfectly for Earls. Lock Iain Henderson took the winger's offload and lunged for the tryline.

Ireland again spurned a penalty chance deep in Australia turf, and third time proved the charm. Center Garry Ringrose scooped up a loose pass on the bounce and weaved through three defenders to touch down.

Australia didn't even breach Ireland's 22 until the final two minutes of the half, then seized momentum. Michael Hooper shot through a gap, and fullback Israel Folau found an onrushing Dane Haylett-Petty for the visitors' opening try. Bernard Foley's conversion brought Australia to 17-7 on the final play of the half.

The Wallabies scored two third-quarter tries to reduce the 52,000-strong sellout crowd to stunned silence.

First, Australia spread the ball with rapid-fire passing for center Tevita Kuridrani to touch down in the left corner.

Jackson briefly steadied Irish nerves a minute later with another penalty kick to extend Ireland's lead to 20-14. But the injury-riddled Irish found themselves clinging on against an energized Australia attack.

The Wallabies took the lead for the first time in the 57th with more swift passing to the right wing that ended in Sefanaia Naivalu's uncontested run to the Irish posts for a converted try and 21-20.

After a Foley penalty extended Australia's lead, Ireland found the strength for its own comeback blow. Zebo passed to an unmarked Earls on the wing for the winning try in the left corner. Jackson coolly curled his own touchline conversion inside the right post to put Ireland back on top for good.

Ireland's attack starred in the first half, and its defense shone in the second. For a team-leading 12 tackles (and nine carries), flanker Josh van der Flier was named the outstanding player of a match he started at the last minute, after O'Brien failed a fitness test.

In the dying moments, Ireland was confident enough to substitute out captain and hooker Rory Best on the occasion of his 100th cap. He received rousing cheers. When fulltime came soon after, it was the team's turn.

Australia completes its European tour next Saturday against England, while Ireland doesn't play again until the opening Six Nations match away to Scotland on Feb. 4.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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