Johnny Sexton kicked Ireland to a 26-21 victory over Australia to set up a series decider next week in Sydney.
Sexton kicked 16 of Ireland’s points in Melbourne with Andrew Conway and Tadhg Furlong both going over for tries in a dominant performance to tie the series at 1-1 after two games.
The NatWest Six Nations champions could now earn a first southern hemisphere series win since 1979.
Kurtley Beale and Taniela Tupou crossed for Australia, who were also awarded a penalty try in the first half.
It took less than two minutes for Australia to take the lead as they won possession from the kick-off as Ireland failed to secure the ball and conceded a lineout to their opponents. From the resulting lineout, Australia went through a number of phases before Bernard Foley produced a sublime reverse pass to Beale who cut through the Irish defence to touch down under the posts to give the home team a 7-0 lead. Ireland hit back almost immediately and Marika Koroibete was shown a yellow card for a tip-tackle on Rob Kearney. Ireland went to the corner from the resulting penalty and Conor Murray sent Conway over in the corner after a few phases, and Sexton nailed the touchline conversion to level the game. Ireland then dominated possession and territory. Joe Schmidt’s side went into the lead when they won a scrum penalty, which was a big improvement on last week, to push three points ahead as Sexton was accurate once again from the tee. Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony began to dominate the breakdown and this allowed Sexton another opportunity at goal which he duly obliged to send Ireland 7-13 in front. Another Sexton penalty gave Ireland a nine-point lead but then the Wallabies hit back in what was their first visit to Ireland’s 22 since Beale’s opening try. A powerful lineout maul brought the Wallabies over the Irish line and the referee had no choice but to award a penalty try and Cian Healy was sent to the sin bin for illegally bringing down the maul.
VISITORS IN CONTROL Ireland piled on the pressure at the beginning of the second-half and despite the best efforts of Pocock who won some crucial turnovers, Furlong finally powered over from close range after some relentless play from the Irish. Sexton added three more points to give Ireland a 14-26 lead but at the death, Taniela Tupou got over with two minutes to go after Jack McGrath was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on at the breakdown. Foley nailed the conversion and it led to some breathless play as the clock went red as the Wallabies worked their way up the field. However, a knock on by the home side brought the game to an end and all eyes are on Sydney for the series decider.