Ireland clinch first series in Australia since 1979 following 20-16 win in Sydney

Irish rugby’s incredibly successful season ended on a high at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney this morning when Joe Schmidt’s side’s 20-16 victory meant they became the first Ireland team to win a series in Australia since 1979.

In a tight game throughout, Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony and Australian captain Michael Hooper went off injured in the opening half. Both sides were reduced to 14 players at different intervals of the game with the yellow carding of Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale in the 20th minutes followed by a stint in the sin-bin for Israel Folau ten minutes later.

The Irish drew first blood through a Johnny Sexton penalty eight minutes in when Adam Coleman failed to roll away, the first time Ireland got the opening score in the three-test series.

A high tackle from Irish try-scoring sensation Jacob Stockdale forced French referee Gauzere to produce a yellow card for the Ulsterman. Wallabies’ kicker Bernard Foley added to his earlier 12th minute three-pointer to put his side back in front, 6-3.

In the 29th minute of the first half, Sexton levelled the scores when Pete Samu was adjudged to have played Conor Murray off the ball. Folau was soon sent to the sin-bin when he played Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony in the air, with the tackle forcing the Munsterman off the field, with his tour contribution over.

The sides traded penalties again before the 40th minute: Sexton put Ireland back in front in the 34th, Foley equalised in the 39th, before the Ireland talisman put his side back into the lead. Johnny Sexton’s four successful penalty kicks to Bernard Foley’s three meant the visitors entered the dressing room 12-9 ahead at the break.

Ireland stretched their lead at the beginning of the second half with CJ Stander touching down from a powerful Irish maul just 4 minutes in. Though Sexton missed the conversion to the left, Schmidt’s side were now 17-9 clear, and looked to be comfortable.

Sensing the test series was drifting away from them, Michael Cheika’s side upped the pressure on Ireland before winger Marika Koroibete scored a five-pointer at the end of 13 phases of play.

Foley’s conversion put the minimum between the sides with the momentum firmly with the home side as Ireland fought valiantly to prevent another Wallaby score.

With the Irish team’s backs firmly to the wall, Foley missed a perfect opportunity to put his side back in front when he missed a penalty. Sexton’s sixth successful kick of the game stretched his side’s lead to four points with 90 seconds on the clock.

The excitement wasn’t still over, however. The referee consulted his TMO as the clock went into red to adjudge whether Jacob Stockdale had deliberately deflected a Foley pass with the Australians heading for the Irish line. After viewing a number of different angles of the incident, the TMO, Ben Skreen, said it was unclear that Stockdale’s hand had made contact with the ball, and advised the Frenchman to blow the whistle to end the game as the clock had gone beyond 80 minutes.

Back to back victories for Ireland, having lost the first test, and a first series win in Australia since 1979 saw them awarded the Lansdowne Cup. A highly successful season for Irish rugby with a Six Nations Grand Slam, Leinster Rugby winning the European Champions Cup and Guinness Pro14 titles, and finishing with a series win in Australia.

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