Rugby Union: Spooner sticks knife into Irish

Click to follow
Australia 32

Ireland 26

DION O'CUINNEAGAIN'S shamrock warriors found themselves in clover with 23 minutes remaining in Perth. Ireland led Australia 14-9 and were in sight of their first victory over the Wallabies in 20 long years, only for the hosts to claim the laurels. However, yesterday's spirited Irish display was light years from the miserable 46-10 drubbing meted out by the Wallabies a week ago.

The turning point came when Tim Horan crossed the line following sterling work by Nathan Spooner, who had earlier kept Australia in touch with three penalties, and Joe Roff added the conversion. That gave Australia a vital two-point lead and they cut loose in the dying stages. But despite the result, there was little doubt that after their record defeat of Ireland eight days ago, Australia were given a fiercer examination by Warren Gatland's spirited side.

O'Cuinneagain, the Irish captain, said: "It was hard after last week; we were hurting a lot. But the boys showed they've got a lot of pride. There was just a 20-minute slip where we let the Aussies in the game but we vastly improved on last week."

The tourists even had the satisfaction of outscoring their opponents by three tries to two, Peter Clohessy, Justin Bishop and Kevin Maggs the scorers. David Humphreys gave the visitors the lead with a penalty inside five minutes and although Spooner kicked Australia 6-3 ahead, the Irish went in front again on half-an-hour. After a spell of concerted pressure on the Wallabies' line, Clohessy crashed through attempted tackles by Spooner and Daniel Herbert to touch down.

Both Humphreys and Spooner added a penalty in first-half stoppage time as the Irish led 11-9 at half-time. Humphreys, the stand-off, landed his third kick 12 minutes after the break as Ireland closed on what would have been a remarkable victory.

But the intervention of Spooner, who was injured while setting up Horan's score, changed the game. Roff missed one penalty attempt but he converted two more before Chris Latham rounded off a flowing move by going over, with Roff landing the conversion and then a penalty. Yet Ireland claimed the last two scores, with Bishop and Maggs going over in stoppage time and Humphreys converting Maggs' try.

Australia: C Latham; J Little, D Herbert, T Horan (all Queensland), J Roff (ACT); N Spooner (Queensland), G Gregan (ACT); G Panoho (Queensland), J Paul, P Noriega, D Giffin (all ACT), T Bowman (NSW), T Kefu, M Cockbain, D Wilson (all Queensland, capt). Replacements: M Burke (ACT) for Latham, 77; N Grey (NSW) for Spooner, 58; T Strauss (NSW) for Kefu, 47; J Williams (ACT) for Cockbain, 74; P Kearns (NSW) for Wilson, 80, D Crowley (Queensland) for Panoho, 29.

Ireland: G Dempsey (Terenure); J Bishop (London Irish), B O'Driscoll (University College, Dublin), K Maggs (Bath), J Bell, D Humphreys (Dungannon), T Tierney (Garryowen), P Clohessy (Young Munster), K Wood (Harlequins), P Wallace (Saracens), P Johns (Dungannon), M O'Kelly, T Brennan (both St Mary's College), D O'Cuinneagain (Sale, capt), A Ward (Balynahinch). Replacements: D Corkery (Cork Constitution) for Brennan, 76; J Davidson (Castres) for Johns, 67; R Corrigan (Lansdowne) for Clohessy, 71; R Nesdale (Newcastle) for Wood, 56.

Referee: A Watson (South Africa).