O'Mahony inspires Ireland to a series decider Down Under
After a Pocock and Hooper workshop in Brisbane last week, there were a few calls for Peter O'Mahony to step up his game.
Does he offer enough aside from a lineout option? Should he be dropped? Can he deal with the Aussies on the ground?
On foreign tours, the squad can often live inside a bubble, so there's a fair chance the Munster man may not have even seen the criticism of his position in the team. Whether intending to or not, he made those critics look foolish today.
Captaining the side once again, O'Mahony played the leader's role. He poached three penalties under the nose of the Australian back row, helping Ireland to a first win Down Under in 39 years.
At 26-21 it was a five point game, but Ireland were better value for the win. Just like last week, they led in possession and territory, but the mistakes of seven days ago were largely corrected.
The turnovers were slashed and they looked urgent with the ball in hand. We gulped when Kurtley Beale spliced through Dan Leavy and CJ Stander to score under the posts just two minutes in, but the reaction was everything it needed to be. Last week, Ireland started static in attack, pulped by an endless blitz of Australian hits in the opening 20. This week, they met them at the gainline, and removed the impact of the Australian defence.
They were ruthless with a man advantage. When Marika Koroibete was sin-binned for his tip tackle on Rob Kearney, Ireland tagged on 16 unanswered points, creating a lead which they never gave up.
In the second half, they could have kicked on further, but for a few refereeing inconsistencies. Wallaby captain Michael Hooper somehow avoided a yellow card for a cynical offside five meters from his line. Soon after, Keith Earls went over in the corner, appearing to finish spectacularly despite two tacklers hanging off him. It was chalked off by the TMO, brought back for another Irish penalty close to the line. The official warning came this time and soon after, Tadhg Furlong ploughed over for his first test try. Advantage was being played at the time, but the yellow never came.
Again, the yellow stayed in Paul Williams's pocket when Bernard Foley was penalised for a deliberate knock-on. Instead, Williams warned the Australians that the were on a warning. They were living a charmed existence.
Taniela Tupou's late try and a Jack McGrath sin-binning gave Joe Schmidt a few moments of unease late on, but in truth Ireland were fully deserving of the win, setting up a series decider in Melbourne next week.
The balance in team selection was there. Garry Ringrose was electric on his return to the centre, shooting up in defence on a number of occasions to stop Australian attacks dead. Keith Earls - as ever - ate up the ground with the ball in hand, 56 yards off 9 carries, beating four defenders.
Tadhg Furlong's first international try was a long time coming, and there was no stopping him from short distance. He beat six defenders over 38 yards and 12 carries, picking up the official Man of the Match.
It sets up a decider in Sydney next week. Cup final rugby in all but name. The ideal preparation for Japan.