In the end Australia won a nail biter – 18-9 in one of their very best performances since the 2015 Rugby World Cup – even better than when they beat the All Blacks at the same venue last year.
But where was the game won and lost – we examine the key areas of the match to see who came out on top in four incredibly hard fought battles.
It was always going to be interesting to see which backline was the faster if the game opened up. Australia’s opening try suggested it was the Wallabies.
Will Genia found some space out wide for Dane Haylett-Petty who sent Samu Kerevi away before another clever pass from Genia put Bernard Foley over in the corner.
Ireland are the masters of pressure, of working in tight spaces, but Australia wanted the game played in the open spaces out wide.
Australia again showed they had the edge with Israel Folau’s superb second half try, which was unfortunately disallowed for Adam Coleman’s off the ball tackle, as well as the fullback’s incredible aerial skills.
Jacob Stockdale did his best for Ireland with limited opportunities but the Men in Green’s tight game plan didn’t provide him with much of a platform.
Rob Kearney also made some uncharacteristic errors but a huge try save tackle on Marika Koroibete partly made up for it.
VERDICT: Folau’s superb performance gives this one to Australia.
Another incredibly tight battle. Conor Murray, rightly so, is regarded as the top scrumhalf in world rugby and he was superb right from the start with his pinpoint kicking and speedy service.
But as the game wore on Genia came into it more and more with his own quick service releasing Australia’s speedy outside backs.
There was also a lot of talk before the match about how young fly-half Joey Carbery would handle the pressure of starting in such a big Test but to his credit he held up well, showing he belongs at this level.
But similarly as the game wore on the Wallabies No10 Bernard Foley stamped his own authority in his own kicking and distribution.
Even when Ireland’s first choice No10 Johnny Sexton came into the game Foley continued to dominate.
VERDICT: Surprisingly this goes to the Wallabies also.
The fairy tale of the garbo who rose to become a Wallaby was meant to hit its high point in Brisbane but unfortunately brutal reality struck.
The debutant hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa had won everyone over during the week with his winning personality since being called into the starting line-up due to the retirement of Stephen Moore, the non-selection of Tatafu Polota-Nau and the injury to Jordan Uelese.
But when the pressure was applied the newly shorn 22-year-old sadly faded.
He lost his first line out and then given the chance to make an impact in open play he was shunted back by the Irish defence and then Peter O’Mahony easily plucked the ball from his hands.
Another poor throw in the 29th minute gave Ireland the ball on the Wallabies 22 and another early in the second half.
On the plus side for Australia, the Ireland scrum dominance never really asserted itself in a match with only 11 scrums. And Taniela ‘The Tongan Thor’ Tupou’s massive scrum in the 68th minute was a turning point in the match.
Adam Coleman was a strong presence for Australia, as was James Ryan for Ireland.
But with the Wallabies woes at the lineout, mainly due to Paenga-Amosa’s lack of accuracy, and Coleman’s tackle without the ball that saw Folau’s try overturned – this one has to go to Ireland.
VERDICT: Ireland – Australia need to work out their lineout.
This was one of the best back row battles ever seen on Australian soil. Michael Hooper, David Pocock and Caleb Timu against Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Jordi Murphy.
Pocock was back to his annoying best in his best game in the gold jersey since the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He was a constant menace at the ruck making the Irealnd pack work harder and harder to retain possession.
O’Mahony was also at his best getting some important turnovers while CJ Stander came into the game more in the second half with a searing break just after half time, running 50 metres only to be denied by Haylett-Petty’s tackle on the try line.
In the close games the fine margins make all the difference and Pocock seemed to win the ball fairly at the breakdown more often than he was given credit for by the ref. He also took his try brilliantly in the 70th minute.
Crusaders flanker Peter Samu also won a ruck penalty at his first breakdown, immediately making his presence felt for the Wallabies.
VERDICT: Due to Pocock’s non-stop performance this one goes to Australia.
Michael Cheika has spoken often about the Wallabies playing in a way that would capture the spirit of the Australian public. For the last few years that has meant trying – and failing – to play expansive rugby
But at last Cheika seems to have realized what the Australian public really want is to see some good old fashioned guts and heart – as well as some razzle-dazzle. They want to see a team totally committed and giving all they can for their team and their country.
And that’s what the Wallabies gave in bucket-loads. Some huge hits right from the kick off in the his team’s most committed performance in recent memory.
One tackle from Marika Koroibete on Conor Murray was eye-popping as was another from Michael Hooper on Joey Carbery.
But to Ireland’s credit they weathered the opening barrage, worked their way into position, and then built the pressure.
It was the usual professional performance from the Six Nations champions but in the end surprisingly, it was Australia who finished the stronger – finding the gas in the final minutes to get home.
VERDICT: Australia worthy winners.
Refereeing blunders, All Blacks mistakes and a characteristic French fade contributed to an underwhelming 52-11 win – as absurd as that sounds – for New Zealand in the opening Test of the series at Eden Park.
Here we take a look at the talking points:
France make best of All Blacks’ slow start
Les Bleus were able to at least dream for the first 21 minutes before the All Blacks, who were guilty of being too expansive too early, turned on the after burners and the Barrett brothers combined to score New Zealand’s first try.
Barrett brother No1 Scott, popped it to Barrett brother No2 Jordie before brother No3 Beauden dove in the left hand corner to score.
Before that France had done well to contain the home side, who committed more mistakes in 20 minutes than they would in a season.
All the talk before the match was about how much New Zealand would win by, not if, and the team seemed determined to turn on a spectacle from the kick off.
But as their stern coach Steve Hansen no doubt reminded them at half-time the game must first be won upfront before you turn on the razzle dazzle.
They clearly heeded that advice and scorched away in the second half with seven more tries.
A big welcome for big Karl
In the 48th minute the feel-good story of the season so far took another step with Karl Tu’inukuafe coming on to make his debut for the All Blacks. And no sooner had the former bouncer taken his place than New Zealand won an important scrum penalty with a big shove. It helped turn the match in the All Blacks’ favour.
New Zealand had started the second half as they should have the first, grinding out the hard yards before giving the ball to their sparkling backs. It may not have been what the crowd wanted to see but it was what was needed.
Soon after the scrum penalty a clever kick through by Beauden Barrett set-up a Codie Taylor try and from then on it was all going to be one-way traffic, especially with the All Blacks. Ben Smith then went over a few minutes later, this time taking a final pass from Taylor.
But it all started with Tu’inukuafe’s impact at his first international scrum.
Can’t really be getting these calls wrong anymore. Definite red. pic.twitter.com/oUnWUqiM8s— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) June 9, 2018
Thanks but no thanks Mr Pearce
You don’t like to attack a young referee controlling his first major Test but three major errors from English referee Luke Pearce greatly assisted the All Blacks – as if they needed the help! It would not have changed the result but may have made a difference to the margin.
Firstly he immediately yellow carded France lock Paul Gabrillagues for a tackle on Ryan Crotty, without using the TMO for a second look. If he had taken the chance to use the video replay he would have seen that the tackle deserved a penalty, if that. But Pearce wanted to impress with his speedy, and incorrect, decision that was then compounded soon after.
While Paul Gabrillagues was in the sin bin France winger Remi Grosso was hit by not one by two illegal tackles in the same instant. First Sam Cane hit Grosso with a high swinging arm around the head then while he was going to ground Ofa Tu’ungafasi came in from the other side with a shoulder which clearly contacted Grosso’s head. It wasn’t that different to the tackle that saw Sonny Bill Williams red carded in last year’s Lions series but no action was taken by Pearce.
Despite two clear red/yellow card offences the arrogant Englishman decided only a penalty was warranted as Grosso was already “going to ground”.
The sin-binning and non-sin-binning completely changed the course of the game and destroyed any brave French resistance. To add further salt to the wounds Pearce awarded a late try to Ardie Savea that clearly should have been ruled out as Savea went to ground in the tackle before hand. Again – no use of TMO.
Let’s hope we don’t see Mr Pearce at this level again until he learns a little humility.
Les Bleus hoping for master stroke, Pocock to spur Wallabies, Jaguares become Pumas and Siya Kolisi brings in a new chapter for the Springboks.
Here are out talking points for the first weekend of June internationals:
France hoping for ‘masterstroke’ against All Blacks
Underdogs France are looking to pull off a trademark “masterstroke” against the All Blacks when they open their three-Test series on Saturday, captain Mathieu Bastareaud said.
France memorably upset New Zealand at the 1999 and 2007 Rugby World Cups but they haven’t arrived in the best of shape, after finishing fourth in this year’s Six Nations.
Bastareaud, who has a chequered record in New Zealand after falsely claiming he was assaulted in Wellington in 2009, described the All Blacks as “a mythical team and jersey”.
But despite the overwhelming odds facing them, he said France were still eyeing their first win in nine years against the triple world champions.
France were the last team to overcome New Zealand at Auckland’s Eden Park, way back in 1994, since when the hosts are unbeaten in 40 games — including the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, when they edged Les Bleus 8-7.
“We are here because we think we can challenge them. A win would be a masterstroke,” said Bastareaud, who said he preferred to leave his personal history in New Zealand aside.
Pocock return to spur Wallabies against Irish: Cheika
Australia coach Michael Cheika says he is looking forward to the return of David Pocock to spur the Wallabies to victory over Six Nations champions Ireland in Brisbane on Saturday.
The influential Pocock — playing his first international since taking a Rugby sabbatical last year — will play in the unfamiliar position of blindside flanker, with skipper Michael Hooper preferred at openside.
The second-ranked Irish are on the crest of a wave, having won their last 12 internationals and this year’s Six Nations tournament, but have not won in Australia since 1979.
Cheika, who coached Irish province Leinster to their first-ever European Cup in 2009, said Pocock’s leadership was invaluable but warned that breakdown turnovers would be at a premium against the well-organised Irish.
“We all talk about Poey’s (Pocock’s) on the ground work but that’s going to be very hard against Ireland,” he said.
Jaguares become Pumas as Argentina crave success
The Jaguares became Pumas this week and Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade hopes they can take stunning Super Rugby form into two Tests against Wales, the first on Saturday.
Jaguares, effectively the national team, compete out of Buenos Aires in the annual southern hemisphere franchise competition and their recent form has been a revelation.
After only two victories in their first seven matches, they have won six in a row, including a shock triumph in New Zealand over two-time Super Rugby champions Waikato Chiefs.
When Super Rugby took a break to accommodate Test Rugby, Hourcade called up all 23 Jaguares who helped defeat the Sharks to the national squad, known as the Pumas.
Hourcade is desperate for success after two horror international seasons following an impressive fourth place at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
After 127 years, Kolisi opens new Springboks chapter
After 127 years, 478 Tests and 60 white captains, Siyamthanda ‘Siya’ Kolisi will open a new chapter in South African Rugby on Saturday when he leads the team against England.
The 26-year-old captain and flanker of the Stormers is set to be the first black Test skipper of a traditional world Rugby powerhouse.
Injuries to captain Warren Whiteley and stand-in Eben Etzebeth created a leadership void, and new coach Rassie Erasmus opted for soft-spoken, media-shy Kolisi in a three-player contest.
“I like him,” says the coach. “He is quiet, he is humble, he is nice and physical. I am really excited about what Siya can offer to us.”
Erasmus insists Kolisi was not chosen because of his colour amid constant government pressure to deliver a national Rugby team that better reflects a population that is 92 percent black.
“I have always known Siya as a great player and a great leader — the fact that he will become the first black captain of the Springboks is definitely just a bonus.”
An agreement has been struck between the national Rugby body and the government that 50 percent of the team at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan will be black.