Ireland 21 Australia 6: Hickie helps Irish knock wind out of the Wallabies

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This old ground's long goodbye continued yesterday with a fearful walloping of the Wallabies by a rampant Ireland team. If the pitch was not quite the blasted heath of King Lear's bleak world, the winds certainly cracked their cheeks as the match wore on, with passes tossed around like so many autumn leaves.

Ireland's mastery of the conditions ensured that Australia went the way of South Africa last week, and now only the Pacific Islanders next Saturday stand between the Irish and a victorious final flourish at this scruffy stadium. By the time they return in three years' time, this decaying ground will have been transformed.

Perhaps the Australians' luck with the weather will have changed by then. They have not enjoyed the best of meteorological conditions on recent visits here; four years ago they were blown all over the place and kicked to defeat by Ronan O'Gara and in the build-up to this meeting they had seemed apprehensive about what nature had lined up for them. The real force to fear was Ireland. They may have been playing into the teeth of the gale, but the green-shirted hordes swarmed into the Australian half, where they pretty well set up camp.

The Irish were far more physical than their opponents and a lot stronger in possession, hanging on to the ball until support arrived. Their second try was a perfect example of this, Shane Horgan's offload just short of the line setting up Geordan Murphy for a simple run in and round. O'Gara was spot on with his conversion.

The Wallabies' only spell on the front foot in the first half was in the opening half-dozen minutes - otherwise play was concentrated in Australian territory. The problem was that the Wallabies just could not play with the wind at their backs, indeed at times their use of it was naïve and full of misjudged tactical punts, including kicking beyond the Irish dead-ball line.

Ireland played the wind extremely well, punching the ball low into it. The one occasion when O'Gara lofted the ball a fraction more than might have seemed wise saw Denis Hickie chase and swivel through three tackles to get over for the opening try.

Australia were also prone to giving away penalties at critical times. And that second Irish try owed much to the Wallabies losing a line-out after they had opted to kick a penalty to touch.

By the time the teams emerged for the second half the wind had picked up, and so had the tempers. There had been a brief flare-up before the interval but it was nothing to what happened a quarter of an hour into the second half. Phil Waugh and Denis Leamy became entangled, Chris Latham landed a left hook on the Irish No 8 and Mat Rogers, who had come on after half an hour for Stephen Larkham, joined in. The upshot was yellow cards for Waugh, Rogers and Leamy.

Prior to the punch-up Stirling Mortlock and O'Gara had added to their first-half penalties, but while the sinners were kicking their heels Ireland went further ahead with another penalty. O'Gara missed a further kick at goal, but deep into added time he caught the Wallabies flat-footed with another chipped cross-kick. On this occasion Hickie was just unable to round the defence.

Ireland: Tries Hickie, Murphy; Conversion O'Gara; Penalties O'Gara 3. Australia: Penalties Mortlock 2.

Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester); S Horgan, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, D Hickie (all Leinster); R O'Gara (Munster), I Boss; B Young, R Best (all Ulster), J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (all Munster), N Best (Ulster), D Wallace, D Leamy (both Munster). Replacements: F Sheahan (Munster) for R Best, 77; M Horan (Munster) for Young, 64-77; M O'Kelly (Leinster) for O'Connell, 77; S Easterby (Llanelli Scarlets) for N Best, 64; P Stringer (Munster) for Boss, 74; G Dempsey (Leinster) for Murphy, 80.

Australia: C Latham (Queensland); C Rathbone (ACT), L Tuqiri (New South Wales), S Mortlock (capt), M Gerrard; S Larkham (all ACT), M Giteau (Western Force); A Baxter (New South Wales), T McIsaac (Queensland), G Shepherdson, M Chisholm (both Brumbies), N Sharpe (Western Force), R Elsom, P Waugh, W Palu (all New South Wales). Replacements: M Rogers (New South Wales) for Larkham, 30; G Smith (ACT) for Palu, 52; S Moore (Queensland) for McIsaac, 59; S Staniforth (Western Force) for Rathbone, 69; J Valentine (New South Wales) for Giteau, 80; B Robinson (New South Wales) for Baxter, 40; A Campbell (ACT) for Chisholm, 80

Referee: M Jonker (South Africa).

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