The Qantas Wallabies have fallen to a desperate Ireland 21-26 in another tight battle at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Saturday night.
The Irish drew level in the best-of-three Mitsibushi Estate Ireland Series in a contest where they controlled possession and dominated territory to set up a blockbuster series decider at Allianz Stadium in Sydney next weekend.
Joe Schmidt had made eight changes to his Irish team after they were beaten in Brisbane, and it was returning stars Tadhg Furlong, Johnny Sexton, Connor Murray and Devin Toner that led the charge.
In front of 29, 012 fans on a chilly Melbourne night, the Wallabies got off to a perfect start when centre Kurtley Beale sliced through to score under the posts inside the opening two minutes.
The visitors capitalised immediately after Marika Koroibete was shown a yellow card, with his opposite Andrew Conway crossing out wide to level the scores.
Sexton then piloted three penalty goals to open up a 16-7 lead, before the Wallabies claimed a penalty try to narrow the margin to two points at the break.
The Wallabies lost half Will Genia to an arm injury before the break, and shortly after half time lock Adam Coleman joined him on the sidelines after a head clash with Israel Folau.
Ireland pounced on the wounded Wallabies when man-of-the-match Furlong burst through a hole off a clever pass from Murray.
Trailling 26-14 after another Sexton penalty, the Wallabies struck back in the dying stages through a try to replacement prop Taniela Topou which put them within a sniff of victory. It was not Australia’s night though, as the ball was spilled on their last gasp attacking raid and Ireland held on for the win.
Tries: Beale, Penalty try, Tupou
Cons: Foley 2
Yellow Card: Koroibete
Tries: Conway, Furlong
Cons: Sexton 2
Pens: Sexton 4
Yellow Cards: Healy, McGrath
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 David Pocock, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Lukhan Tui, 21 Pete Samu, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Reece Hodge
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)