‘King hit’ ruins Genia’s season
AUSTRALIA and Ireland will duke it out in a series decider in Sydney next weekend after the Irish scored an impressive sudden-death victory over the Wallabies in Melbourne.
But much of the post-match analysis will focus on Will Genia who will miss the third Test and the remainder of the Super Rugby season after suffering a broken arm in an incident coach Michael Cheika labelled an off-the-ball "king hit".
And star lock Adam Coleman is also in major doubt for the series decider in Sydney after being sent for scans on a possible facial fracture.
Genia is already booked in for surgery after breaking his right arm in a moment that left Cheika unimpressed and the Wallabies management contemplating referring it to the citing commissioner.
"We ran the (line out) play down the front and Willie is the decoy down the back and he got king hit from the side, it looked like a shoulder," Cheika said.
"When you're not expecting it, that's what happens. He jammed his arm and broke it."
Video replays were being looked at by Wallabies officials post-match. They have 48 hours to alert citing commissioners of any incidents they believe should be looked at.
Asked if a TMO should have picked up the incident in the game, Cheika said he didn't want to make excuses for losing to a better team on the night.
"I would rather look at ourselves, there are no excuses," he said.
"We gave away too many penalties, and things we could control, we didn't control, and that led to losing. And we are playing against a very good team. That ends up happening."
The Irish hadn't won in Australia in 39 years but with Johnny Sexton turning in a masterclass back at No.10, the world No.2 ranked side showed they are Six Nations champs by dismantling the sub-par Wallabies and kept the series alive.
But as good as the Irish performance was, the Australians proved their own worst enemies with an extremely undisciplined night at the office.
They conceded 15 penalties and with the weapons they deployed in Brisbane - a powerful defence and a smart kicking game - also firing blanks, the uncomposed Aussie team simply couldn't get themselves into the game.
The Wallabies appeared to be cruising after Kurtley Beale scored a try after just 90 seconds but Ireland made the most of a sin-binning for Marika Koroibete soon after, scoring 13 points with the winger off the field.
The Wallabies fought back by scoring through a penalty try but with Sexton running the show, the Irish were able to keep up the pressure and build on their narrow half-time lead with a try to powerhouse prop Tadgh Furlong after the break.
Sexton's fourth penalty goal in the 66th minute appeared to ice the result but the Wallabies gave the crowd of 29,018 a grandstand finish by scoring in the 78th minute through Taniela Tupou.
Almost fittingly, though, an Australian mistake at the ruck on the siren ended proceedings as the Wallabies were still attacking for a try to draw or a win.
Despite the win, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said he believed the series was "evenly balanced" and their composure to bounce back from an early try and score 16 unanswered points, and then score a decisive try in the third quarter of the game, were the defining moments in the game.
Despite breaking a 39-year-drought Schmidt said the Irish squad would not be popping champagne corks.
"It was another nip-and-tuck game, I think," Schmidt said.
"If people wanted a Test series, I think it is a genuine Test every time. That's probably no surprise.
"It is really evenly poised. I wouldn't be keen on favouring either side, just because of the way the series has gone so far, both games have really been in the balance."
They negated nearly the strengths that the Wallabies had used in Brisbane; stifling Israel Folau's aerial effectiveness with canny catcher-protection, shifting the ball away from Australia's front-on defence and keeping David Pocock off the ball at the breakdown.
"We looked after our ball a lot better. We had half-as-many turnovers as we did last week, and that didn't allow them as much access to play off turnover ball, when we know they are so dangerous," Schmidt said.
"We repaired a bit of stuff in the air. Israel Folau didn't have as much access because Keith Earls was super in the air. He is not the same size as Israel Folau but he is dynamic when he is going up at the ball.
"But we were just hanging in toward the end there. Which you don't want to be against the Australian team."
Cheika and Wallabies captain Michael Hooper conceded their discipline was way too poor to be a realistic shot at winning the game, despite coming very close late in the match.
"We didn't play good enough to go 2-0 up today. I know we scored three tries to two but just think we need to trust our system a bit better," Cheika said.
"In general, we just gave too many soft penalties that piggybacked them into position or into points, and you saw the margin was five points, and we scored one more try. It says it all doesn't it.
"We will just remind ourselves to do what we do, and the rest will be alright. Because when we do it, it's pretty good in defence and attack.
"To be honest, I don't think they played much different to last week. They had a lot of ball. We just defended a lot stronger last week."
The Wallabies' kicking strategies were also off, and where he was in superb form last week, Israel Folau didn't manage to win a single aerial contest. Cheika said the Wallabies' kicking was poor, which led to them running from their own half too much.
"We were just a bit short there tonight but kicking probably summed up our night: not in the right spot and a bit short," Hooper said.
"It was really hard to say 'guys stop this and we will be alright', because there were many different (problems) there. We put ourselves in with a chance to win there, right at the end. but we left so much out there in the middle 50 of the game.
"Next week will be a great spectacle in Sydney and we will go away and learn what we need to do better and get back to work."
Fulltime IRELAND 26 (Andrew Conway, Tadhg Furlong tries Jonathan Sexton 2 cons 4 pens) bt AUSTRALIA 21 (1 penalty try) (Kurtley Beale, Taniela Tupou tries Bernard Foley 2 cons) at AAMI Park. Referee: Paul Williams.
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