Match Reaction: Schmidt lauds character of his men in series victory

Johnny Sexton celebrates after the game 23/6/2018
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt paid his dues to the determination of the Irish players as they soared to a series win over Australia in Sydney.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt paid his dues to the determination of the Irish players as they soared to a series win over Australia in Sydney.

Having lost the first Test in Brisbane, Ireland fought back to triumph in the second Test and ground out another victory to claim their first-ever series win on Australian soil in 39 years.

Jonathan Sexton kicked 15 points and CJ Stander muscled over to see Ireland come from behind to cap off an incredible season for the NatWest 6 Nations champions.

IRISH SPIRIT In a tense finish, Schmidt praised the drive of his men to claw their way back into the series and hopes it will set up more glory in future.

“A heck of a lot of it was character,” said Schmidt.

“Australia laid siege to our 22 over that second 40 minutes. Maybe we should have gotten more out of our first half. A couple of times we got close and didn’t quite convert.

“It was a great lineout drive to finally get that try early after half-time, to get the points differential we needed and the Wallabies came back and they came back in waves.

“I think it’s a credit to the guys. Young Jordan Larmour on again and having to work really hard, Jordi Murphy coming off the bench, Tadhg Beirne.

“Those guys having to come in to what was a real furnace and they came out the other side. And let’s hope that that furnace develops the diamonds we need.

“It goes back to the provinces, they do a great job looking after the players, they manage them well enough that they can keep a bit of juice in the tank.”

SQUAD BELIEF Winning his 50th cap for Ireland in Sydney, Jack McGrath emphasised how challenging the contest was.

“It was an unbelievable end to an incredible season,” said McGrath.

“We fought really hard to the end there, there were a lot of tough times throughout the game, the lads really, really stuck in.

“It just shows, there’s no let up, there’s a lot of belief and an incredible place to be at the moment.”

SERIAL WINNERS McGrath’s Leinster teammates, with whom he won the Guinness PRO14 league title and the European Rugby Champion’s Cup this season, reinforced what a struggle it was to grind out the victory.

Jordi Murphy said: “It was incredibly tough, both sides gave it absolutely everything and the score line reflects that, it was so close.

“We’re just delighted to come out on the right side and to make a bit of history over here.”

Robbie Henshaw added: “Epic is the word. Half the stadium here is full of Irish, it felt like a home game at times. To come down here with our backs against the wall, it was certainly very tough.

“It just shows the character of the group to come back and finish it off. For some players this is as good as it gets for the season, it could be the best season ever with the amount of silverware.”

Devin Toner said: “It’s unbelievable, the support has been amazing. There’s a lot of Irish here, you can tell by the sound.

“To cap that season off is pretty special, the way we played today and the manner of the win, so very delighted.”