Ireland finally finish the job no thanks to Robbo
By Paul McConville
REMEMBER Gordon Hamilton? 1991? The Rugby World Cup quarter-final between Ireland and Australia at the old Lansdowne Road? A game Ireland almost won until Michael Lynagh scored a heart-breaking try for the Aussies? Mark Robson certainly does, Lynagh probably less so as he's dined out on enough success in his glittering career to rely on one moment.
Both were on duty for Sky Sports on Saturday as Ireland hosted the Aussies in Dublin again. They've spruced the place up a bit since Hamilton made us all dream for a few minutes a quarter of a century ago and it was another Ulster man who was under the spotlight on Saturday.
Rory Best was making his 100th appearance for Ireland and the captain started the proceedings by leading his family out onto the pitch, a host of fitting tributes ringing in his ears.
But there was still a job to be done and Paul O'Connell pointed out before kick-off. Ireland were looking to complete the set of victories over the three southern hemisphere powerhouse said the Munster man mountain, evoking England's amazing winning streak under Clive Woodward ahead of their 2003 World Cup triumph. Steady on Paul.
Ireland started on the front foot as Robson and Alan Quinlan did their best to provide unbiased commentary. The home side positive start forced the Aussies onto the defensive as they coughed up penalty after penalty, keeping man of the moment Best busy from lineouts and scrums. When Australia won a penalty themselves after successfully binding up Jamie Heaslip on the grounds, Robson had them "beavering away in the unseen dark world" at the bottom of the ruck.
You can usually tick some boxes when watching these two teams on the telly. One had already been checked off with Robson's Hamilton reference, but the ubiquitous mention of Israel Folau's Aussie Rules career whenever he plucks a ball from the air surprisingly didn't materialise. Instead, Folau high catch to relieve the pressure the first half was meant with a "that's what he can do" from Robson.
When Ireland finally did get over the line thanks to Ian Henderson, Alan Quinlan conjured up a take on a well-worn soccer cliché by saying the Ulsterman was "pretty quick for a big fella" as he ambled towards the line.
It was all looking rosey for Ireland, so Robson thought he would tempt fate by saying: "We haven't seen much of this much vaunted Australian attacking play yet."
Well, we saw plenty of it in the second half Robbo, thank you very much, to almost spoilt Rory's big day, as the man himself said afterwards "waves and waves of gold" were coming at the home side.
But Ireland roused themselves again to see of their Antipodean opponents with Keith Earls going over for the clinching try and head coach Joe Schmidt revealed afterwards that the desire to get the win was because the players wanted to do it for "Bisty".
Cheika, Schmidt's predecessor as Leinster coach, didn't enjoy his return to Dublin and his prickly interview with Sky Sports afterwards showed it.
After alluding to the high penalty count against his team, Cheika put in Australia's best tackle of the evening in on the interviewer when asked if he was unhappy with the officiating, saying: "You know you're not supposed to ask me that" as he had one foot out of the door. Munster and Ireland legend O'Connell could hardly contain his amusement.