DUBLIN — Even in Ireland, the Wallabies’ luck ended up turning.
Brave as they were in defence, the Wallabies were their own worst enemies at Lansdowne Road as discipline once again proved to be their Achilles heel as Ireland cruised to a late 13-10 victory.
The Wallabies were lucky enough to score a late goal but instead kicked in for the corner and makeshift winger Jake Gordon, filling wide after another scorching night with injuries, gave the maul a technical penalty .
Needing only to secure the line-out to seal victory, more drama was around the corner as Ireland lost possession with time running out.
In the end, it didn’t matter as Bernard Foley lost the ball on the line.
The Wallabies fell to the ground all at once. It was a game they could have won, particularly after Johnny Sexton – the kingpin of Irish rugby for more than a decade – was scratched late after tweaking his calf.
Under-siege Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said he was “emptied” by the result.
A team under pressure following their embarrassment in Italy, the Wallabies had been battling for Rennie all week.
Now they are playing for their manager, with the pressure sure to increase as they travel to Cardiff on Monday.
Rennie’s win rate (36.4%) continues to drop as the Wallabies lost their ninth Test of the year.
“It was a tough game obviously,” Rennie said.
Harry Jones, Brett McKay and Jim Tucker discuss the game in our Instant Reaction podcast
“The boys showed great character to stay in the fight. I had a lot of injuries and lost players early on and even played 13 for a while.
“We are empty. We had a lot of ball. And credit to the Irish, they defended really well and it was a game of small margins.
If they don’t win against Wales at the Principality Stadium – the venue of their 1999 World Cup triumph – they will become the Wallabies’ worst side since 1958.
The loss to Cardiff would be their 10th loss with just four wins this year.
Worse still, the Wallabies limped off to Wales after suffering five injuries in Dublin.
Inside center Hunter Paisami (MCL), outside back Andrew Kellaway (toe), back rower Rob Valetini (ankle), hooker Dave Porecki (concussion) and Taniela Tupou (Achilles) failed to finish the game.
If Tupou’s Achille injury is confirmed, it spells disaster for Australian rugby, with the giant prop likely to be out for nine months.
Paisami’s fourth-minute departure was a colossal blow for the Wallabies, whose attack never really took off without a second playmaker.
Outside of the centre, Len Ikitau was forced to move one place closer to the action and with no ball game options to enter midfield, the Wallabies were clumsy in attack.
Mark Nawaqanitawase was one of the Wallabies’ best, with the Second Test winger appearing regularly in attack, while his aerial ability was on full display as he regularly tossed the ball in the air.
While outside backs Tom Wright and Jordan Petaia were sharp.
The Wallabies conceded four penalties for neck rolls in the first half, but none proved more costly than their first in the third minute, when Dave Porecki was gagged and Nic White denied a try. It was yet another one of those “dumb penalties” in which Rennie talked about needing to stamp out on Thursday.
Worse still, poor discipline gave Ireland crucial possession and lazy work around the ruck allowed Jack Crowley to step up and rack up three points.
More were to come though, as Cadeyrn Neville and Len Ikitau gave two more before Folau Fainga’a was sent to the sin bin for his neck effort.
The Wallabies, who had 67% territory and 61% possession in the first half, breathed a sigh of relief shortly after halftime as Jamison Gibson-Park was denied a try after Mack Hansen, born in Canberra, put a toe in touch before. unload to his teammate.
It was a massive effort from the Wallabies who were down to just 13 men after having to call in a player to field a scrum.
Bernard Foley made up for his failure in the first half by scoring a penalty in the 55th minute to level the score.
After neither team tried their luck, returning center Bundee Aki, who won a Super Rugby title under Rennie at the Chiefs before moving to Ireland, broke the deadlock in the 66th minute in crashing.
Aki, who was returning from a long suspension, received the loudest roar of the night when he came on in the second half but was only matched when he scored.
But Petaia quickly silenced the crowd as he completed a marvelous 70th-minute try. Foley’s conversion tied the game.
Another twist was to come when Ross Byrne netted a tough penalty from outside. He pumped his fist and ran halfway before the ball crossed the line.
The Wallabies were given a reprieve and a late chance to get a result.
They refused a long shot and instead went broke.
It bit them at the back as Gordon, playing on the wing for the injured Kellaway, was penalized around the lineout.
One more chance presented itself, but like a cat with nine lives, the Wallabies’ luck ran out.
“We had chances to go to that short end where we got numbers and played at the top. We’ve had a handful of times where we just have to pass and the last guy is free,” Rennie said.
“It’s the pressure of Test footy, you have to seize the moment.”
Wallabies captain James Slipper said the loss left a “sour taste” in his mouth while also battling for Rennie.
there is so much confidence in Dave. I don’t even want to go that route right now to be honest. We are the players out there in these big moments that we fall into, and we continue to these games, we couldn’t be more prepared.
“As for the direction this group is taking, which we have faced this year, I have a lot of confidence (in the group), extremely confidence. We faced a lot of adversity. We lost a lot of players. I can browse the list. But in the end we didn’t get the results we wanted, but as captain at the moment I’m happy with the direction we’re going. I would also like to be in a better place too. So I understand that, but that sets up a big game for next week.