Pens: P Burke 7, 25, 32, 52 Tries: Knox 77
Pens: M Burke 1, 10, 42, 63, 70
Cons: M Burke 77
Half-time: 9-6 Attendance: 50,000
Until David Knox scored the only try of the game in the closing minutes, the goal-kicking Burkes ruled the Lansdowne Road roost yesterday. Matt Burke for Australia and Paul Burke for Ireland shared the penalty- goal haul, and before Knox's late effort, the score was 15-12 to the Wallaby full-back.
Which may infer that this was a dull match, but it was far from that; with new captain Keith Wood roving the field like Ned Kelly once roamed the Australian outback, Ireland's forwards gave nothing away in set piece or the loose. Both packs mauled ferociously; at times, this looked like a revved-up version of the Eton Wall Game.
Yes, this was rousing stuff but both sides might have done better to vary their tactics and approach. That applied to the Irish more than to their opponents, especially in the first half, when Paul Burke gained valuable ground with raking kicks, only for Australia's line-out jumpers inevitably to win back possession and reverse the process.
When Australia began to spin the ball late in the game, they were contained by an alert Irish cover and Wood and his re-vamped team did much to dispel the memory of the recent Western Samoa debacle. But they were clearly shattered when Knox's try and Matt Burke's conversion put the game firmly beyond their reach. The skipper had a storming match, but might do well to resist his penchant for trying to run through brick walls, though his spirit clearly restored pride and self-belief in the team.
The new men - Steve McIvor at scrumhalf and Dominic Crotty at left wing - did well, as did Anthony Foley, recalled at No8. Crotty was only on the left wing for 13 minutes, before reverting to his regular full-back position when Jim Staples retired injured.
Australia looked a pale imitation of their recent predecessors, but are certainly a competent team and deserved to win this torrid contest, if only just about. John Eales and Warwick Waugh performed well in the lines- out - as did Foley, Jeremy Davidson and Gabriel Fulcher for Ireland - but, despite the odd thrust from Tim Horan and Daniel Herbert, there was little sparkle in the backs.
But in the relative calm after the storm, with Australia having maintained their unbeaten run against Ireland since 1979, one was left with a sense of deja vu.
Which is to say that, once again, the Irish were gallant losers in a brave display which had their supporters in ecstatic full voice. But it would be far more satisfying were the team to get into a winning mode again; rather easier said than done.
Ireland led by 9-3 at half-time, as Paul Burke's three penalty goals were countered by two from Matt Burke. They exchanged penalty goals before Matt Burke's two huge kicks from half-way gave Australia a 15-12 lead with 10 minutes to go; then Knox's try and Burke's final conversion ultimately floored the Irish.
Ireland: J Staples (Harlequins); J Topping (Ballymena), J Bell (Northampton), M McCall (Dungannon), D Crotty (Garryowen); P Burke (Bristol), S McIvor (Garryowen); N Popplewell (Newcastle), K Wood ( capt, Harlequins), P Wallace (Saracens), G Fulcher (London Irish), J Davidson (London Irish), D Corkery (Bristol), D McBride (Malone), A Foley (Shannon). Replacements: M Field for Staples, 13.
Australia: M Burke (New South Wales); J Little (Queensland), D Herbert (Queensland), T Horan (Queensland), J Roff (Australian Capital Territory); D Knox (Australian Capital Territory), G Gregan (Australian Capital Territory); D Crowley (Queensland), M Foley (Queensland), A Blades (New South Wales), W Waugh (New South Wales), J Eales (capt, Queensland), D Manu (New South Wales), D Wilson (Queensland), M Brial (New South Wales). Replacements: B Robinson for Eales, 61.
Referee: B Campsall (England).