At least Ireland were not hopelessly outclassed, and they did manage a late try by the right wing Shane Horgan but they still lost. And they made lots of unforced errors.
Australia were not great, but they did look more assured on the ball. As predicted their scrum was dodgy and their line-out not much better, but out wide they had the nous, pace and power, in the persons of Morgan Turinui and Lote Tuqiri, to put an end to their immediate past.
The best of the match was saved till last, with the last quarter of an hour containing two telling Australian scores, a superb solo effort by Chris Latham and Mitchell's coup de grâce, as well as Horgan's unconverted try.
The gaping hole at one end of the ground, because the North Terrace was still unfit for spectator use following a fire 10 days ago, was symbolic of the Ireland defence towards the end.
It all began to go wrong with the loss of Malcolm O'Kelly in the 18th minute. The Irish lock took the ball up during a spectacular passage of play into the Australia 22 and was hit low by Nathan Sharpe as, simultaneously, his head appeared to make contact with Tuqiri's right shoulder. O'Kelly was pole-axed and six anxious, silent minutes went by before he was taken to hospital with concussion - he was later reported to be OK.
By then Ireland, displaying far more passion and intent than the previous week against the All Blacks had stolen into the lead through Ronan O'Gara's eighth minute penalty.
Although Australia were creaking in the set-pieces - debutant tighthead prop David Fitter in particular being given a torrid time by Marcus Horan - and lost the odd line-out or two to the Irish, they still threatened as the phases mounted, attacking the tight channels and demanding superhuman efforts from the Irish defenders.
The pressure eventually told. The thin, green line came up offside a metre out and Mat Rogers levelled the scores. But Ireland battered their way back into Wallaby territory with O'Gara, whose second successful penalty earned them a half-time lead, directing proceedings well with his boot.
The errors by Ireland were inexcusable at times. Geordan Murphy's high pass to the left wing Tommy Bowe with the line beckoning in the final seconds of the first half was a fine example, but at least Ireland were creating chances.
The Wallabies got back on equal terms with Rogers' second penalty and seized the initiative with a series of drives after Denis Leamy had turned the ball over. Tuqiri powered into Irish bodies and play swung left before Hugh McMeniman fed the left wing Mitchell. Despite a despairing attempt to prevent the touchdown by the scrum-half Peter Stringer, the try was awarded following consultation with television match official.
Ireland took heart from a failed penalty attempt shortly after and surged back. A tremendous shove on a Wallaby put-in sent the Aussie scrum flying backwards and Ireland won the ball.
David Humphreys, who had replaced O'Gara after an hour, landed a penalty when the Aussie captain George Gregan hung on to the ball and Lansdowne Road was suddenly intoxicated with the noise of the home support.
Ireland pushed upfield, then came the stunner. Gregan fed Latham from a scrum, the full-back stepped inside Humphreys, sent Murphy the wrong way and touched down close enough to the posts for Rogers to take the game well out of Ireland's reach.
The replacement hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau intercepted a Humphreys pass and sent Mitchell on a 90-metre sprint to the line, during which he left Andrew Trimble, Bowe and Horgan clutching at air. Horgan's try was of little consequence, rendered even more so when Rogers knocked over his third penalty.
Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester); S Horgan (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), T Bowe (Ulster); R O'Gara, P Stringer; M Horan (all Munster), S Byrne (Saracens), J Hayes, D O'Callaghan (both Munster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), S Easterby (Llanelli Scarlets, capt), J O'Connor (Wasps), D Leamy (Munster).
Replacements: R Best (Ulster) for Byrne, 54 ; M McCullough (Ulster) for O'Kelly, 18; D Humphreys (Ulster) for O'Gara, 53.
Australia: C Latham (Queensland); M Gerrard (ACT), L Tuqiri, M Turinui (both NSW), D Mitchell (Queensland); M Rogers (NSW), G Gregan (ACT, capt); G Holmes (Queensland), B Cannon, D Fitter (both W Australia), H McMeniman (Queensland), N Sharpe (W Australia), J Roe (Queensland), P Waugh (NSW), G Smith (ACT).
Replacements: T Polota-Nau (NSW) for Cannon, 73; A Baxter (NSW) for Fitter, 54; M Chisholm (ACT) for McMeniman, 72; S Fava (W Australia) for Roe, 76; M Henjak (W Australia) for Gregan, 73; W Sailor (NSW) for Gerrard, 66.
Referee: C White (England).
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