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The last time David Pocock pulled on a gold jersey was against England at Twickenham, in December 2016.
That was 14 Tests ago, but last night in Brisbane, the champion flanker turned in a man of the march performance as the Wallabies ended Ireland’s 12-match winning streak with a hard-fought 18-9 success, scoring two tries to nil.
The excellent 46,273 crowd was promised action, and they enjoyed 80 minutes worth of tense and exciting entertainment.
What a welcome change from some of the rubbish that’s been dished up this season.
If ever coach Michael Cheika should be saluted, last night was it.
After only six days’ preparation, the Wallabies beat the current undefeated Six Nations champions, and the world number two side, with just 40 per cent possession, and a mere 39 per cent territory.
Defence was the key, with Pocock, Michael Hooper, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete outstanding, delivering one bone-shaking tackle after another.
Beale, in particular, silenced those critics who keep saying the utility back can’t tackle.
All the knockers had to do was ask the men in green why their bodies were so battered and bruised – and Beale dished it out for the entire journey, despite a cut forehead suffered early in the piece, and a shoulder injury.
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Despite the lack of territory and possession that called for a mountainous number of tackles, the Wallabies missed just 16, and made only 14 turnovers.
This was a proud and new-look outfit that delivered commitment like rarely before. Simply, the Wallabies concentrated on making the basics right.
There conceded only 11 penalties, and at least four of them were impossible to fathom from South African referee Marius van der Westhuizen, the Aussie scrum was tight and competitive, so too the lineouts, despite hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa feeding on debut.
The ticks kept coming as the Wallabies won 77 of their 81 rucks contested, while Ireland won 122 of their 130.
Quality rugby all round.
But what gave the crowd more pleasure was the way the Wallabies spun it along the backline, despite constant pressure from the visitors.
Scoring two tries to nil was proof enough.
But the backs thoroughly enjoyed doing what they do best – attack, attack, and still more attack.
The series moves to Melbourne next Saturday, which will be a sell-out after last night’s scintillating display, with Allianz already a sell-out in a fortnight.
It’s a nice for a change to report real rugby is back.