Ireland signed off from their Grand Slam season with one last high as they edged a tense decider 20-16 in Sydney to claim a first series win in Australia since 1979.
Here, we take a look at five of the stand-out players from the series.
Minutes played: 183 (24, 79,80)
The Leinster man is an inspirational presence and everyone around him plays better and looks more confident any time he is pulling the strings from 10. He held a 84.6% successful rate from the boot (11 from 13) over the course of the three Tests and put the Wallabies under pressure all day with his crisp passing ability, superb game management and clever kicks to touch. Even for a slight figure, he always carries hard into the line, and stepped up to convert the winning penalty when the game was in the melting pot in Sydney. A Trojan-like figure and Ireland’s most important player.
Minutes played: 224 (80, 64,80)
One of the Wallabies standout performers. The 29-year-old may have been well contained by Garry Ringrose in the second Test defeat, but in Brisbane and Sydney, he looked dangerous every time he touched the ball, with crucial breaks and ability to put players outside him in formidable attacking positions. At No12, he provides Australia with a diverse attack and solid tackling ability. And with his stock rising, Beale has the chance to build further on his glowing displays in a crucial Rugby World Cup year where Michael Cheika’s side will be bidding to reach the latter stages of the tournament. For all the unreliability about him in recent times, the Waratahs man adds nimble footwork and intelligence to an improving Wallabies attack.
Minutes played: 164 (69, 64, 31)
Stood up to the David Pocock challenge and it was disappointing to see him taken off early in the deciding test due to an injury. Led from the front in Melbourne, forcing four turnovers and a crucial line-out steal to his personal ledger. He might lack the pace of other back-row players but the Munster man showed some of his best moments in an Irish jersey in Australia this month. With uncertainty over Rory Best’s availability for next year’s Rugby World Cup, the 29-year-old could be leading the Men in Green in Japan. World class player with a world class attitude to the game.
Minutes played: 240 (80, 80, 80)
An immense presence to any side. The fearless Brumbies star contested the ruck ball and disrupted Irish line-outs at every opportunity, winning the Wallabies countless penalties and a wealth of possession in a gruelling series. In the first Test, he made seven carries for 10 metres, 15 tackles, won four turnovers, had a staggering 56 ruck involvements, claimed two line outs and scored a try. And although quiet by his own standards in Melbourne, he showed a willingness to win his own ball and lead by example in the third Test when captain Michael Hooper was forced off with a hamstring injury. A high class operator at the breakdown, the 30-year-old will be a force in Japan next September.
Minutes played: 170 (32, 71, 67)
The Leinster man delivered powerful performances in Melbourne and Sydney, epitomised by some bursting runs and a crucial try in the second Test. Made 12 carries and beat six defenders in that game, just a small picture of what he brings to the table on any given day. Widely regarded as the best tighthead in the world, he is an imposing presence and always seems to have the edge in the scrum and around the breakdown. The Wallabies pack purred with dominance in the first Test and his addition certainly added pace and sheer brute power to help contain a dynamic Wallabies duo of Scott Sio and Sekope Kepu.
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