Magners League table-toppers Munster picked up yet another international scalp as they beat Australia for the fourth time in their history at a rain-soaked Thomond Park.
Outside half Paul Warwick did for his fellow countrymen as he kicked Munster to a 15-6 victory that will now sit alongside their triumphs over the Wallabies in 1967, 1981 and 1992.
The win was made even more impressive by the fact that Munster were missing an entire team of front-line internationals, with only Johne Murphy, Damien Varley and Keith Earls released from the Ireland Squad.
It was Munster’s first win over Australia at Thomond, with their three previous wins in eight attempts all coming at Cork’s Musgrave Park. Tuesday’s famous triumph will now sit alongside the stunning 1978 success against the All Blacks when Munster became the only Irish side to have beaten New Zealand.
It also banishes memories of the heartbreaking defeat to the All Blacks in November 2008 when a late try condemned the Red Army to a 18-16 reverse in their last Magners League winning season.
Warwick landed three penalties and two trade-mark drop goals in terrible conditions to give the 21,314 Munster faithful plenty to shout about at the end of an otherwise miserable night.
The former Australian Sevens skipper matched the six points from the boot of Wallaby captain Berrick Barnes in the first-half and then added two more penalties and a drop goal after the break to complete the victory.
If it was the Brisbane-born, former Manly player, who actually kicked the Wallabies to defeat, the victory was also a triumph for Munster’s Australian coaching duo of Tony McGahan and Laurie Fisher.
“Our line-out was superb, but our breakdown work was really the key. Full credit to Laurie for the work he’s done there, and the same to Anthony Foley for the tremendous work he has done on our defence this year,” said McGahan.
“Our defence was certainly well marshalled and tough. If you get those two areas right, and that’s built on the back of spirit and passion and determination, you get a great result.”
As for Warwick, while he was enjoying being the toast of the town in Limerick, he was also feeling for the Aussies, who had former Munster skipper Jim Williams among their coaching contingent.
“I guess I probably felt for the Australians, being Australian as we were walking off. But I’m delighted with that performance,” admitted Warwick.
“The Australians wouldn’t have known much about those conditions, whereas we’re brought up on them – me being a Munster man now of course.
“It was the young guys up front that won the game for us, which makes the win all the more impressive. We needed to control the ball in the second half and we did.
“People go on about the O’Connell’s and the Hayes’ coming towards the end of their career, but there is depth here that people aren’t aware of.”
Cork Constitution’s 22-year-old second row Ian Nagle was made Man of the Match for his hard work alongside Billy Holland in the boiler-house. The 6ft 6in tall Ireland Under 20 cap was upgraded to a full development contract with Munster this season and was making only his second start in the senior red jersey.
Munster’s victory matched that of the reigning Magners League champions the Ospreys against Australia in 2006 (24-16) and will no doubt give the second placed Scarlets plenty to think about ahead of their top-of-the-table clash at Thomond Park on Sunday.
Scorers: Munster: Pens: P Warwick 3; DGs: P Warwick 2. Australia: Pens: B Barnes 2
Munster: Johne Murphy (Scott Deasy 72); Doug Howlett, Keith Earls (Barry Murphy 78), Sam Tuitupou, Denis Hurley; Paul Warwick, Duncan Williams (Conor Murray 67); Wian Du Preez, Damien Varley (Mike Sherry 62), Peter Borlase (Stephen Archer 78), Billy Holland, Ian Nagle (Brian Hayes 78), Peter O’Mahony (Tommy O’Donnell 62), Niall Ronan, James Coughlan (captain)
Australia: Lachie Turner (Peter Hynes 57); Rod Davies, Pat McCabe, Anthony Faingaa, Luke Morahan; Berrick Barnes (captain), Luke Burgess (Nick Phipps 57) Ben Daley (James Slipper 53), Saia Faingaa (Tatafu Polota-Nau 46), Salesi Ma’afu, Dean Mumm, Rob Simmons, Scott Higginbotham (Pat McCutcheon 41), Matt Hodgson, Richard Brown (Van Humphries 53)
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)