The Wallabies have posted their first back-to-back win of the year with a dominant 32-15 victory over Ireland at a packed Aviva Stadium.
An impressive Australia scored a four-try shutout in Dublin in their most creditable performance of Ewen McKenzie’s short tenure to give him a fourth win from 10 Tests.
The only downside was a late red card to centre Tevita Kuridrani for a tip tackle on flanker Peter O’Mahony which should rule him out of next week’s clash with Scotland at Murrayfield.
Flanker Michael Hooper scored two tries, either side of being sin-binned, in a man-of-the-match effort while enigmatic playmaker Quade Cooper continued his return to form in a 17-point display.
Cooper scored the try which turned a tight match the Wallabies way when he dummied and stepped through for a 22-12 lead early in the second half to highlight his team’s growing maturity and improvement.
It came as Australia immediately put a controversial no-try decision behind them when English television match official Geoff Warren denied Nick Cummins what appeared a legitimate five-pointer by adjudicating the winger had failed to ground the ball properly.
Australia’s much-maligned scrum then took matters into their own hands by wheeling the Irish pack to gain their own 5m feed before setting a perfect platform for Cooper to work his magic.
The Wallabies forward pack were also rewarded for their strong combined efforts with a powerful 10m driving maul try to Hooper which sealed the result with 12 minutes left.
Stout goalline defence also kept Ireland, not as slick or skilful with the ball as the Australians, tryless in the closing stages when they were down to 14 men.
McKenzie had talked all week of the need to win back credibility through results and he would have been well pleased by the all-round efforts across the paddock in their best game of an otherwise forgettable year.
Israel Folau’s ridiculously-freakish skills in the air confounded the Irish who suffered for the loss of playmaker Jonny Sexton at halftime through a suspected hamstring injury.
The Wallabies started superbly to jump to a 15-3 lead in the opening 25 minutes following two impressive tries down the left-hand sideline.
Both were sweeping plays involving Cooper behind the line, which featured skilful one-arm off-loads by forwards Stephen Moore and Scott Fardy for tries to Cummins and Hooper – his first in Test rugby – respectively.
Poor retention at the kick-offs and repeated ruck infringements, which ultimately saw Hooper yellow-carded, allowed Ireland to claw their deficit back to two points at halftime as Sexton slotted four penalty goals and the penalty count read 9-3.
Sexton’s injury and the lack of combination between replacement Ian Madigan and his centres showed when Cooper dummied and stepped his way through for the key momentum changer.
It was Brian O’Driscoll’s last match against Australia and he was well held, particularly by Matt Toomua, in attack but still popped up for some of his side’s most dangerous plays.