Once again, the Wallabies showed incredible fight but couldn’t find a way over the line as Ireland held on for a 13-10 victory.
It was a brutal encounter littered by injuries pre and during the game, with Dave Rennie’s men losing almost a half-dozen whilst Ireland lost Johnny Sexton before the game
The visitors gutted it out with the best in the world but another late penalty proved the difference to allow the Irish to escape with victory.
So what did we learn from the match?
1. Risking it all
You could see the pain on James Slipper’s face after the match as the Wallabies once again went down in a tight encounter.
It came down to two similar situations for both sides, handed penalties in almost identical spots.
Ireland slotted their attempt through Ross Byrne to put pressure on the visitors, essentially forcing them to go for the line.
In the end, it was another late infringement rarely called that came back to haunt the Wallabies as Jake Gordon was pinged for incorrect maul entry, allowing the Irish to close out the game.
The Wallabies showed incredible fight against the world’s number-one ranked side, testing them for the full 80 minutes. Their scramble defense down to 13 was elite, keeping themselves in the fight.
However, those last five minutes really sum up the year for the Wallabies; so close yet so far.
Dave Rennie must be wondering which mirror he cracked in a past life.
The visitors’ injury list continues to grow with Rob Valetini (ankle), Dave Porecki (concussion), Hunter Paisami (knee), Taniela Tupou (Achilles) and Andrew Kellaway (foot) all leaving the field.
Tupou looks the most serious, going down without any contact as he was stretched off the field.
There’s an argument that will be made regarding injury management but when everyone except for Paisami and Tupou was rested last week and the majority seemingly happened in freak accidents, it doesn’t exactly hold up.
It adds to the pain with Will Skelton and Bernard Foley unavailable for next week, both providing crucial cameos.
Michael Hooper reminded everyone why he is the best number seven in the world on his day.
The battle between Hooper and Josh van der Flier, who is in career-best form and a leading contender for Player of the Year, was vital to the contest such is the talent and influence of both men.
The Irish ace was solid in defense but Hooper’s game was at another level. His presence at the breakdown was felt almost instantly, winning multiple turnovers.
This coupled with the incredible work rate helped the Wallabies survive the second-half charge from the hosts and kept them in the game.
4. Proving he belongs
Mark Nawaqanitawase must be a short-priced favorite for most improved player in Australian Rugby in 2022.
He started the year out of the Waratahs’ best 23 but tonight’s performance proved he belongs in discussions for the best winger currently playing in Australia.
The Waratah provides a different element to the Wallabies attack, with his rangy carries opening the space for offloads whilst providing a genuine aerial threat not possessed in a long time.
It presents an interesting dilemma with Marika Koroibete set to return to the fold next year, with Jordan Petaia also delivering one of his best games in gold.
5. Rolling with it
It’s becoming a consistent theme but the Wallabies’ discipline continues to be its Achilles heel, this time falling foul of neck roll whilst cleaning out at the ruck.
Ben O’Keefe was on the issue from the opening whistle, disallowing a Nic White try after Dave Porecki was pinged for taking van der Flier off the ball illegally.
After both teams fell foul, O’Keefe’s clear warning that the next would go fell on deaf ears as replacement hooker Folau Fainga’a gave him little options but to issue a yellow.
It leaves Dave Rennie with major headaches surrounding his hooker depths, with both Porecki and Fainga’a repeat offenders throughout the tour, with the returning Wallaby Tolu Latu facing similar issues throughout his career.