Ireland won a pulsating Test against Australia to clinch victories over the ‘big three’ southern hemisphere teams in the same year for the first time.
Tries from Iain Henderson and Garry Ringrose helped the hosts to a 17-0 lead but the Wallabies fought back with three touchdowns to move into the lead.
Keith Earls’ score proved decisive but it was the Irish forwards who laid the platform in a breathless encounter.
The result ended Australia’s hopes of a Grand Slam over the home nations.
They had defeated Wales, Scotland and France and will face England in the final match of their northern hemisphere tour next week.
Dane Haylett-Petty scored the tourists’ first-half try, with Tevita Kuridrani and Sefa Naivalu crossing the line after the interval.
Paddy Jackson kicked two penalties and three conversions for injury-ravaged Ireland, with Bernard Foley contributing 12 points with the boot for Australia.
The battling triumph made it a successful November Series for the Irish, Joe Schmidt’s men having already beaten New Zealand in Chicago, seen off Canada in Dublin and then losing a bruising encounter to the All Blacks at the Aviva Stadium last week.
Ireland were led out by skipper Rory Best, who joined an elite band of players to win 100 caps, following Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara and Paul O’Connell and John Hayes in reaching the significant milestone of a century of appearances in the green shirt.
Australia, who also lost when the nations last met on Irish soil two years ago, made nine changes for the match, bringing back key men like Israel Folau and Michael Hooper, who sat out last weekend’s 25-23 win over France.
In the end though, it was Joe Schmidt who came out on top over Michael Cheika in the battle of the former Leinster coaches, both of whom had led the Irish province to European Cup success.
The home side enjoyed sustained periods of pressure in the first half, bossing territory and possession with accurate crisp passing and domination up front and at scrum time, but Australia defended resolutely for the most part, despite infringing repeatedly and conceding a series of penalties.
Jackson’s first successful kick was scant reward for his side’s early supremacy, but Ireland took advantage of Dean Mumm’s 10-minute absence in the ‘sin bin’ for a tip tackle on Tadhg Furlong.
Henderson crashed over for the opening try after a fine grubber kick by Simon Zebo, which Earls collected smartly, before off-loading to the Ulster second row.
Despite losing Rob Kearney and Andrew Trimble to injuries, the Irish continued to have the upper hand.
Exciting centre Ringrose showed enterprise and invention to increase the lead when he weaved and ducked his way through an admittedly porous-looking Wallabies defence to score beside the uprights.
Haylett-Petty completed an exquisitely executed passing move by touching down under the posts in the final minute of the opening half to reduce his side’s arrears to 10 points at the break.
Ireland’s growing injury woes – with Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Sean O’Brien ruled out – were exacerbated when Jared Payne, a pre-match fitness doubt, failed to appear for the second half.
The subsequent reshuffling of the Irish backline left Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion to enter the fray on the right wing, another replacement, Leinster fly-half Joey Carbery, having earlier slotted in at full-back as Irish resources were stretched to the limit.
Cheika’s side came out with renewed intensity and Henry Speight had a try disallowed for a forward pass, before Kuridrani dived over in the corner in the 46th minute, with replacement Naivalu repeating the feat 10 minutes later as the visitors nudged ahead for the first time.
Ireland regained the lead when Earls finished clinically for a score in the 66th minute and Joe Schmidt’s men showed indomitable spirit to retain their advantage, repelling all Australian attacks to celebrate a memorable success over another southern hemisphere giant.
Captain Best rounded off his special occasion by leaving the field to a standing ovation in the closing minutes, while Foley’s late yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Devin Toner had little impact on the final outcome.
Ireland displayed outstanding character and resilience throughout to end 2016 on a high by winning their 12th Test of the year in heroic fashion, with the odds seemingly stacked against them, last week’s defeat by the All Blacks having taken a heft toll in the treatment room.
The highlights of 2016 were a first away win over South Africa, and a first victory over New Zealand after 111 years of trying.
They continued the form which saw them rise into the top four of the world rankings, a position they will hope to retain in a bid to secure a high seeding for May’s draw for the 2019 World Cup.
Ireland: Kearney; Trimble, Payne or Scannell, Ringrose, Earls; Jackson, Murray; McGrath, Best, Furlong; Henderson, Toner; Stander, O’Brien or O’Mahony, Heaslip.
Replacements: Cronin, Healy, Bealham, Dillane, Van der Flier, Marmion, Carbery, Zebo.
Australia: Folau, Haylett-Petty, Kuridrani, Hodge, Speight, Foley, Genia; Sio, Moore (capt), Kepu; Arnold, Simmons; Mumm, Hooper, Pocock.
Replacements: Latu, Slipper, Alaalatoa, Douglas, Timani, Phipps, Cooper, Naivalu.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/38117637