With Ireland taking on Australia this Saturday at the Aviva Stadium, Brian Barry selects his top five Irish performances against the Australians.
5. 1991 World Cup – Ireland 18-19 Australia
It may ultimately have been a loss which left a true sense of ‘what might have been’, but the old Lansdowne Road witnessed one of its great moments on 20th October, 1991. Although this game features ahead of better results for Ireland in this list, it remains iconic. The World Champions elect travelled to Dublin anticipating a routine win, but hit a wall of atmosphere and flair.
Gordon Hamilton’s try looked set to give Ireland the win, but the Australians had other ideas, as Michael Lynagh majestically collected the ball, and crossed the line for a famous victory.
4. 2002 November Internationals – Ireland 18-9 Australia
The World Champions rolled up to Dublin one year out from the World Cup with real ambitions of defending their crown. But Ireland, at the dawn of the ‘Golden Generation’, recorded a famous win on home soil.
Although the two were in the same pool twelve months later, there was no sense of shadow boxing. In fact, the gloves were off. Ronan O’Gara nailed six penalties at Lansdowne Road, and the star-studded Aussie line-up were left outplayed and outfought.
3. 1979 Summer Tour – Australia 12-27 Ireland; Australia 3-9 Ireland
The two games in 1979 heralded the first time Ireland won a series in the Southern Hemisphere. Tony Ward travelled as the expected starting out-half for Ireland, having been ever-present in the Five Nations in 1978 and 1979.
Only a few months on since masterminding Munster’s victory over New Zealand, Ward looked set to start. But Ollie Cambell was favoured instead of him, and fully justified his selection.
In the first test in Briasbane, he scored 19 points in Ireland’s 27-12 triumph, and knocked over a penalty and two drop goals in the second test as Ireland clinched the series with a 9-3 victory. It will go down in the annals of the history of Irish Rugby, and rightly so.
2. 2011 World Cup – Australia 6-15 Ireland
Australia and New Zealand win their respective pools, power their way through the knock-out stages, and have a titanic struggle in the final. The blue-print was simple for the 2011 World Cup. But Declan Kidney’s side had other ideas. The choke tackle was used to perfection, as the Irish bullied their Australian counterparts up front, while Jonny Sexton and Ronan O’Gara kicked Ireland to victory.
Cian Healy’s dump on Quade Cooper and Stephen Ferris and the whole Irish pack driving back Will Genia laid down markers. But it was a comprehensive 15 man effort, and one of the great World Cup upsets, particularly as it was in the Southern Hemisphere. It was also significant as it was Ireland’s first big win at a World Cup, the importance of which we may not yet appreciate.
1. 2006 November International – Ireland 21-6 Australia
This was not just a victory for Irish Rugby on the day, but a victory for Irish Rugby’s philosophy and style. Pundits predicted that the sizable pairing of Stirling Mortlock and Lote Tuqiri would overpower Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll in the midfield with brute force, while Stephen Larkham’s running game would be too hot to handle for Ronan O’Gara.
The Wallabies were sent packing with their tails firmly between their legs, and Ireland rose to third in the World Rankings. Dennis Hickie dancing across the try line will live long in the memory of those who were present on a wet day at Lansdowne Road.
2003 World Cup – Australia 17-16 Ireland.
2010 Autumn Internationals – Ireland 20-20 Australia.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena
Featured image By Jolon Penna [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons