15. Rob Kearney: 5
Not only did Kearney leave the game with hurt ribs, but a dented pride after a display littered with uncharacteristic handling errors and defensive blunders. Nick Cummins turned Ireland’s full-back far too easily for the opening try. Kearney was a poor second best to his opposite number, the outstanding Israel Folau.
14. Tommy Bowe: 5.5
Yet to find form this autumn, Bowe spoiled a great try scoring opportunity when he came in at an angle instead of holding his line on the wing. There were glimpses of his aerial ability and a willingness to get more involved after a quiet outing against Samoa but Australia marshalled his threat, apart from one first half break.
13. Brian O’Driscoll: 4.5
Left treading water on a couple of occasions by younger, more athletic Australian backs and missed a crucial tackle on Cooper in the lead up to Cummins scoring. His lack of competitive game time this season was evident in both attack and defence – hopefully O’Driscoll’s ‘one more year’ doesn’t turn into a long, drawn out deterioration in form.
12. Luke Marshall: 6
Winning his 4th cap Marshall mixed good with bad playing in the midfield. An inexplicable misunderstanding with Madigan allowed Quade Cooper to slip unopposed underneath the posts for the try which effectively ended the game as a contest after half-time. In other aspects Marshall impressed, including one wonderful, sweeping pass which put McFadden in space.
11. Fergus McFadden: 5.5
In a rich vein of form coming into this game and gave his all in a backline lacking cohesion, but without the natural instincts of a winger he rarely backed his pace on the outside. Had either of Zebo or Earls been available, or Andrew Trimble in decent form, then McFadden probably wouldn’t need to play out of position.
10. Johnny Sexton: 4.5
An unhappy return in green for Sexton, as Quade Cooper comfortably had the better of their fly-half duel before the Irishman tweaked his hamstring at the end of the first half. There were signs of Sexton’s threat as the game broke up but his poor kicking out of hand played into the hands of the Wallabies’ dangerous back-three.
9. Eoin Reddan: 4
Schmidt’s selection of Reddan raised eyebrows, and probably worked against Ireland in the end as the Leinster scrum-half had a day to forget. You could see the intention for Reddan to provide a speedy service, but his passing was erratic at best and his box kicks ineffective. He oversold himself covering Nick Cummins break allowing the Wallaby to easily step inside and canter in for a try. I would expect Murray to come back in for the All Blacks.
8. Jamie Heaslip: 4.5
The Australian trio of Fardy, Hooper and Mowen controlled the breakdown despite Hooper spending ten minutes in the bin. They left Heaslip and co with only scraps on the floor and Ireland’s presentation of the ball was rarely clean. In the loose Heaslip went missing as his defensive exertions took their toll.
7. Sean O’Brien: 6.5
Ireland’s most prominent ball carrier but the Wallabies were excellent in defence when he had opportunities to run and therefore O’Brien wasn’t the catalyst for Irish momentum as they might have hoped. There were two turnovers, but generally Michael Hooper had the better of the openside battle.
6. Peter O’Mahony: 5
A stand out performer in the first autumn game, but there were no heroics this weekend. O’Mahony allowed Scott Fardy to ride his challenge and offload leading to Hooper’s score as Australia cut loose in the first half and there were other defensive lapses. He was lucky to escape serious injury as the victim of a cynical double spear which saw centre Kurindrani red-carded late on.
5. Paul O’Connell: 5.5
Powerless to stop the Australian onslaught, but O’Connell would run himself to a standstill in trying to do just that. He showed no shortage of guts and determination as you would expect from the captain but O’Connell lacked the mobility to cope with the dynamic Wallabies.
4. Devin Toner: 5
Fully deserved to start ahead of McCarthy off the back of his performance against Samoa, but struggled to influence this game apart from one clever supporting line after Bowe made a break. Toner is normally an almost guaranteed source of possession in the lineout but uncharacteristically spilled one which should have been a comfortable take.
3. Mike Ross: 3.5
Obsessed with perfecting the technical aspects of scrummaging, Ross’ troubles against James Slipper will dent his confidence in a big way. The Wallabies were visibly lifted when Ross was penalised in the first scrum and it didn’t get much better for the Leinster tight-head on a difficult evening. The All Blacks test next week isn’t the right time to hand Martin Moore his debut but beyond that Ross is on borrowed time.
2. Rory Best: 5.5
So good in every aspect last week, this weekend his darts were less certain and with the front-row under pressure in the scrum Best had occasional difficulties hooking the ball cleanly. Those pressures meant there was less time for poaching on the ground and his work in the loose suffered too. Stephen Moore was far and away the better no.2 on this occasion.
1. Cian Healy: 6
Back in place of McGrath, who impressed on debut last week, Healy didn’t leave his usual mark on the game or his opponents, and the scrum was far from stable on either side. He’ll be better next week for having had an hour to get up to speed, but he missed a few tackles we expect Healy to make.
Ian Madigan came on after Sexton’s hamstring injury and while letting Cooper waltz under the posts was a significant bogey on his match card he deserves credit for showing ambition in the backline.
Conor Murray replaced a hapless Reddan with twenty-five minutes remaining and brought greater control at the base of the ruck, however, his unfortunate knock-on was spotted by the TMO ruling out Sean Cronin’s late consolation score.
None of the replacement forwards were able to break the Wallabies control of the breakdown and set piece as Schmidt emptied the bench with his final throw of the dice.
By David Blair (@viscount_dave)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images