Australia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
SOMETIMES, though certainly not at Galway Sportsground yesterday, the Wallabies' rugby seems to have been made in heaven. Hence, no doubt, the man with the banner reading 'John 3:7' who has been following them round Ireland.
'All of you need to be born from above' is the gospeller's message, and what divine intervention there was, as Australia struggled to overcome the Cinderella of Irish rugby provinces, was firmly on Connacht's side.
Intermittently it rained, occasionally it poured, and always a vicious west wind ripped across the dog track that houses Galway's rugby ground. Sydney or Brisbane it most definitely was not. Troy Coker, Aussie captain for the day, said he had experienced worse only once (and that, inevitably, had been in Ireland).
With the Test in Dublin now three days away, this was not a performance to inspire confidence, whatever the excuses. All right, there was no brawl as there had been in Cork, and yes, it was only the midweek team. But the Wallabies' progression through this island has been less than triumphal: the senior side have looked jaded and the juniors not quite up to it.
Yesterday, Connacht kept snapping away and even led at half-time by Aidan White's two penalties to Tim Kelaher's one. And if there was an inexorability about it when they were overtaken by Kelaher's second penalty, Matt Ryan's try driving off a line-out and finally Kelaher's third penalty, even upwind they had plenty of the play.
This in itself was a fine accomplishment. Conditions may have been in their favour, but their match build-up had been fraught with more difficulty than even the smiling Irish could cope with. The establishment of the Irish Exiles as a separate provincial entity deprived Connacht of many of their best players and then, out of the blue, their coach, George Hook, resigned less than a fortnight ago.
So sympathy for the continuing predicament of the Wallaby dirt- trackers should be strictly limited and in any case Bob Dwyer, the tourists' coach, appears less concerned than perhaps he should be. 'If we had to replace the first XV with the second XV, obviously the second XV aren't going to be as good,' he said.
'But individual members of the second XV can play in the first XV without any massive decrease in performance.' This has been proven in Australia's Test matches this year but it is still a change of tune by Dwyer, who in South Africa liked to consider his players interchangeable and here in Ireland began by predicting his dirt-trackers would in two years be good enough to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.
When they get to Wales next week, he will have to look at his inflexible policy of midweek/weekend selection. Otherwise Swansea, whom they play next Wednesday, will beat them. Mike Ruddock, the Welsh champions' coach, was in Galway yesterday with his chairman of selectors, Roger Blyth.
Ruddock's verdict: 'We were disappointed with what we saw from Australia and if they field that midweek side against us we would be confident, given the conditions, that we are capable of winning.' Which was a diplomatic way of saying he thinks Swansea would give them a damn good thrashing.
Connacht: Penalties White 2. Australia: Try Ryan; Penalties Kelaher 3.
CONNACHT: A White (St Mary's College); G Curley (Athlone), M Cosgrave (Wanderers, capt), S Tormey (Galwegians), C Leahy (Wanderers); E Elwood (Lansdowne), K Lawless (Clontarf); T Clancy (Lansdowne), W Mulcahy (Skerries), D Henshaw (Athlone), T Coughlin, S Jameson (St Mary's), E Walsh (Dolphin), N Mannion (Lansdowne), M Fitzgibbon (Shannon). Replacement: P Brady (Wanderers) for Mannion, 41.
AUSTRALIA: T Kelaher (New South Wales); D Smith, A Herbert (Queensland), R Tombs, D Junee (NSW); P Kahl (Queensland), A Ekert (NSW); D Crowley, D Nucifora, M Ryan, G Morgan (Queensland), W Waugh (NSW), S Scott-Young, T Coker (capt), D Wilson (Queensland). Replacement: D Campese (NSW) for Herbert, 34.
Referee: G Simmonds (Wales).