Rugby Union: Australia found wanting in victory over Irish

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AUSTRALIA duly won the first Test at Ballymore with something to spare, but Ireland had the small satisfaction of ensuring they never looked like world champions.

A 20-point final margin flattered Australia and the brave, if tactically and technically limited, Irish could have been considerably closer but for a crucial try at the end of a first half in which they had spoiled and harried effectively and frustratingly.

The man of the match, the Fijian-born Ilie Tabua, was responsible, charging over on a diagonal run after Michael Lynagh, Phil Kearns and David Wilson had moved the ball swiftly to the right.

Until that moment, Ireland, with four defeats in their previous five games on tour, had given more than as much as they taken from the World Cup holders.

Their hooker, Keith Wood, typified their energetic approach, taking on the Australian pack with some startling running as well as committed tackling and even putting in a couple of tactical kicks for good measure. Ireland were also helped to maintain their parity by Neil Francis's good work in the line-out.

A disjointed home side took the lead when John Fitzgerald was penalised at a ruck, but never imposed themselves in the way their supporters expected.

Another ruck offence, this time awarded against Tim Gavin, allowed Eric Elwood to level the scores and although Lynagh's boot put Australia ahead again, they could not be regarded as being on their way to the anticipated victory until Tabua's try.

Tabua, effectively making up for the continuing absence of Willie Ofahengaue, also played a vital role in the try that extended that 10-point lead.

His drive was halted by the ubiquitous Wood, but Peter Slattery picked up the pieces and Lynagh was able to beat some indecisive tackling by Paddy Johns and Niall Woods to score.

Conor O'Shea landed a long- range penalty to give the Irish a glimmer of hope but David Campese's 58th try of his Test career extinguished it quickly.

It was one of the least spectacular of his record-breaking haul, his forwards providing the impetus to drive him over the line.

The hesitancy of one of Ireland's four new caps, the Blackrock winger, Woods, gave Australia the opening for their next try.

Woods hung back from an angled kick by Lynagh to try to cover the threat of Campese, and an unkind bounce gave the ball to Matt Burke for a simple touchdown.

With Australia feeling they had done enough, Ireland had their best period of the match, but David Corkery wasted one position by lashing out and conceding a penalty and another by choosing not to pass to Simon Geoghegan.

Jonathan Bell was another to neglect Geoghegan when Ireland made another promising break, but they did finally get over the try-line when Johns stretched out to score after a good run by Elwood.

It was hard again on Ireland that Australia should have the last word, Darren Smith bouncing over for a disputed try in time added on.

The Irish captain, Michael Bradley, agreed that lapses in discipline had cost his side their few attacking opportunities.

'We made a lot of mistakes but it was an excellent performance from Australia,' he said, rather over-praising the opposition.

'There were a lot of changeovers in possession and they countered our kicking game well.'

Both coaches, Australia's Bob Dwyer and Gerry Murphy of Ireland, were closer to the mark when the word 'disappointing' loomed large in their post-match analysis.

The difference was that Australia can be disappointing and win, while Ireland now have less than a week in which to put together a huge collective effort to salvage something from a difficult tour.

Australia: Tries Tabua, Lynagh, Campese, Burke, Smith; Conversion Lynagh; Penalties Lynagh 2. Ireland: Tries Johns; Conversion Elwood; Penalties Elwood, O'Shea.

AUSTRALIA: M Pini (Queensland); D Campese (NSW), M Burke (NSW), M O'Connor (ACT), D Smith (Queensland); M Lynagh (Queensland, capt), P Slattery (Queensland); T Daly (NSW), P Kearns (NSW), E McKenzie (NSW), G Morgan (Queensland), J Eales (Queensland), D Wilson (Queensland), T Gavin (NSW), I Tabua (Queensland).

IRELAND: C O'Shea (Lansdowne); S Geoghegan (Bath), P Danaher (Garryowen), J Bell (Ballymena), N Woods (Blackrock); E Elwood (Lansdowne) M Bradley (Cork Constitution, capt); J Fitzgerald (Young Munster), K Wood (Garryowen), P Clohessy (Young Munster), M Galwey (Shannon), N Francis (Old Belvedere), D Corkery (Cork Constitution), P Johns (Dungannon), B Robinson (Ballymena). Replacement: D McBride (Malone) for Galwey, 15.

Referee: J Dume (France).

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