Ireland v Australia

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A try to Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll, playing in his 100th Test match, with the final move of the match, saw an historic victory to the Qantas Wallabies snatched away as they drew 20-all with Ireland at Croke Park on Sunday.

A try from Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom with 18 minutes to go looked to have given the Men of Gold a winning margin but try as the might they just couldn’t keep a desperate Irish team out in the final seconds.

The one consolation to the Wallabies, as their Grand Slam dreams were dashed, was they retained the Lansdowne Cup, which they held after defeating Ireland in Melbourne in 2008.

Earlier the Men of Gold ran on to a strangely muted Croke Park, perhaps it was the loss to France in the Football World Cup qualifying match at the same venue 24 hours earlier.

The Wallabies got off to a dream start after just two minutes with O’Driscoll unable to pull in a long pass from his flyhalf Ronan O’Gara.

The ball bounced up in to the arms of winger Drew Mitchell who sprinted 40 metres to score. Matt Giteau converted and the Men of Gold were up 7-0, silencing the huge Irish crowd of over 77,000.

O’Gara brought it back to 7-3 on five minutes with a penalty from 40 metres out after David Pocock was adjudged offside after collecting a loose ball that had bounced forward off Will Genia from a high kick.

Giteau had a chance to put the Wallabies back out to a seven point lead on15 minutes but his penalty attempt from wide out on the left faded to the right.

On 18 minutes Ireland looked dangerous through multiple phases before Pocock, who was later named Man of the Match, won a penalty at the breakdown to diffuse a dangerous situation for the Wallabies.

Pocock went to the blood bin soon after with George Smith coming on.

But on 21 minutes Ireland were back to 7-6 after O’Gara landed a penalty from right in front after the Wallabies were penalized for holding on at the breakdown.

The Wallabies were having problems at the lineout losing a number of their own throws and Ireland used the turnovers, spinning the ball from wing to wing, trying to beat the Wallabies on the outside.

Giteau then put the Wallabies out to 10-6 with a well struck penalty from 40 metres out.

Either side of this Elsom made a superb thirty metre charge straight down the middle and Giteau made a break on the Irish 22 to be dragged down just metres out before the Wallabies gave up a penalty for holding on.

On 29 minutes a very tough call from referee Jonathan Kaplan saw No.8 Wycliff Palu yellow carded for what looked a legal but very hard hit on Irish fullback Rob Kearney.

It was one of a constant stream of penalties whistled by the South African.

The Men of Gold were down to fourteen men in the final crucial quarter of the first half and would need to work hard to maintain their advantage and make sure the decision was not match deciding.

Another superb turnover from Pocock, who was back from the blood bin, set up by smart defence from Giteau, saw the Wallabies diffuse another dangerous situation ten metres out from their line and Palu returned with the Wallabies not conceding a point in his absence.

The Wallabies were in good attacking position as half time approached but two handling mistakes from Quade Cooper saw the chance slip away and the Men of Gold went to the break leading 10-6.

They needed to hold on for just another forty minutes to secure a historic victory and keep the Grand Slam dream alive.

But to do that they would need to fix their lineout problems and make the most of every scoring opportunity that came their way.

The second half started well with the Wallabies with Giteau being given another chance to put the Wallabies further ahead but his goalable shot from the left, missed to the right. How crucial that miss would turn out to be.

The Men of Gold’s lineouts seemed to be working much better with the Wallabies winning their first three cleanly in the second stanza with Elsom being utilized more at the front.

The Wallabies strove for the killer blow to put a break between themselves and their hosts and Adam Ashley-Cooper made a superb break in counter-attack but couldn’t find his support.

The Men of Gold’s scrum was holding firm and a superb drive on 52 minutes saw the Irish scrum implode as they were forced back ten metres.

Ireland made a replacement with 2009 British and Irish Lions utility back Keith Earls coming on for the injured Luke Fitzgerald.

The Wallabies scrum was again dominant just a minute later to win another scrum penalty with this time Giteau on target – Australia up 13-6 after 54 minutes.

But an excellent re-start saw Ireland re-gather and storm into attack.

Ireland kept it tight, pounding the Australian line, before O’Gara spun a long ball quickly to winger Tommy Bowe who crashed over close to the posts.

O’Gara converted and now the Irish crowd was awake – cheering on the home team. 13-all.

The final twenty five minutes was going to Test every fibre of this young Wallabies team.

The Wallabies now launched an attack with Pocock sparking the surge, cutting through the Irish defence.

Good work from the forwards took the ball on before Digby Ioane made a strong charge setting the ball up close to the Irish line.

The Wallabies then spun the ball wide with a superb pass from Giteau finding the captain ranging up out wide.

Elsom sprinted towards the corner and somehow managed to ground the ball despite a clear shoulder charge from Kearney.

A superb conversion from Giteau from the touchline put the Wallabies up 20-13 and with 18 minutes to go in touching distance of a famous victory.

Coach Robbie Deans went to the bench bringing on Tatafu Polota-Nau for Stephen Moore, who had been prominent at hooker, and James O’Connor for Ashley-Cooper at fullback. What a moment, and an acid test, for the teenager.

Ireland, with great enterprise, tried to run their way back into the game, moving the ball quickly from wing to wing.

The Wallabies had to hold on and score more points themselves if they were to finish on top.

Ireland then launched a spirited attack but excellent defence and strong counter-attacking saw the Wallabies turn the ball over five metres out from their line.

But Giteau tried to run the ball out and lost it. Ireland again went wide but a forward pass to Bowe saw the Wallabies survive again.

But the Irish were camped in Wallabies territory with O’Gara pinning the Men of Gold in their 22 with pin point kicking.

Ireland gave up several goalable chances as they drove for the equaling try.

Again and again they kicked for the sideline as they tried to drive over a maul from five metres out.

With under three minutes to go the Australians defence looked to have been breached, as again Bowe fought his way over but with three Wallabies defenders on him it was impossible to judge whether he had grounded the ball.

Scrum to Ireland five metres out. Could the Wallabies hold on ? Men of Gold fans around the globe were on the edge of their seats.

From the scrum a simple backline move saw confusion in the Wallabies backs and in his 100th Test O’Driscoll strolled over to score under the posts.

It turned out to be the final play of the match. O’Gara converted from in front and Kaplan blew the full time whistle.

The Wallabies were unbeaten but the Grand Slam dream of 2009 had been cruelly snatch away.

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