Ireland’s tour of Australia: Irish eyes are smiling once again

Daniel Barnes
25 June 2018

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What a year this is proving to be for Ireland.

Ireland, Australia, Tadhg Furlong, Jonathan Sexton, CJ Stander, Jack Conan, James Ryan

Having recorded a Grand Slam success in the Six Nations, a 20-16 win over Australia last weekend means that a side made up entirely of players that ply their trade in the Guinness PRO14 are now celebrating their first series win over the Wallabies Down Under since 1979.

Joe Schmidt’s men are going from strength to strength – here’s our look back at a June of bountiful joy for the Irish.

Stumbling out of the blocks

By going on to record a superb series triumph that will live in the memory, Ireland made it easy to forget that their summer business started on a bum note.

Their 12-match winning streak was brought to a halt at the Suncorp Stadium as tries from Bernard Foley and David Pocock helped the Wallabies slam the brakes on Schmidt’s charges.

That’s not to say that there weren’t still some positives for the tourists, however, as Leinster’s Joey Carbery impressed in the No.10 shirt, kicking three penalties and looking accomplished in his work as he attempted to put pressure on first-choice fly-half and club teammate Jonathan Sexton.

James Ryan, another Leinster man, was unable to continue his incredible record for both club and country – he had come out on the winning side in the last 23 games he had played in before the first Test – but he was still right in the thick of the action, the 21-year-old lock pulling off 15 tackles, more than any of his teammates.

Leading lights show the way

The Test that swung the pendulum firmly back in the direction of the tourists was a pulsating encounter in Melbourne, with a number of big guns coming back into the Ireland line-up and inspiring the men in green to a deserved 26-21 victory.

Munster’s Andrew Conway went over to cancel out an early try from the hosts’ Kurtley Beale while Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong also crossed the whitewash.

A British & Irish Lion in 2017, tighthead prop Furlong stamped his authority all over the Wallabies, making 38 metres in 12 carries and producing a fine scrummaging performance to add to his crucial try.

The returning Sexton also made a hefty impact with the boot, kicking 16 points to keep the scoreboard ticking over with regularity.

Facing down the storm

With the series tied, all eyes were on the Allianz Stadium as Ireland’s mettle was put to the test – and they showed grit in abundance to overcome the Wallabies and secure a tour triumph in Australia for the first time in nearly four decades.

After Munster’s CJ Stander had grabbed the Irish’s only try of the game, Schmidt’s troops were forced to withstand a hefty second-half onslaught and were thankful to another accomplished haul from No.10 Sexton, who this time kicked 15 points.

Jack Conan, who like Sexton, was part of the Leinster side that defeated Scarlets in the 2018 Guinness PRO14 Final, was also key to Ireland’s defensive solidarity, pulling off 20 successful tackles.

Meanwhile, Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale, player of the championship in the Six Nations earlier this year, was key to relieving pressure as he made 73 metres – more than any other player on the pitch.

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