By Micil Glennon
Australia 56 Ireland 46
Ireland lost their grip on the Cormac McAnallen Cup after a 56-46 defeat to Australia in the International Rules Series Test in Perth.
An elite Australia side totally dominated the first half, leading Ireland by 35-7 after two quarters.
Paul Earley’s side rallied after the break, but couldn’t reel in the Aussies despite two second-half goals.
The much maligned series, this time held on a one-Test basis in front of a 38,262 crowd at Patersons Stadium, was once again under threat after two desperately poor renewals had led to increased calls for euthanasia.
But, perhaps stung by lacklustre showings in 2013 and 2011, the Australians selected an elite side of exclusively All Australia (All-Star) players.
And their calibre showed early on. While Ireland struggled to hold onto any meaningful possession, the home side, as they did in 2010, began to give an exhibition of point (over) scoring.
Steve Johnson (3), Chad Wingard, Jarrad McVeigh all landed smart overs and, in truth, they should have been further ahead.
Paddy O’Rourke in the Ireland goal denied Brent Harvey when a goal looked on and Luke Breust hit the post from close range.
It looked as if Ireland would finish the quarter with just a single behind on the board before captain Michael Murphy marked and shot over late on to leave the score at 22-4.
But the die was cast and Australia maintained the fast tempo when the second hooter sounded.
Summer rivals Aidan O’Shea of Mayo and Kerry’s David Moran had chances at the start of the second quarter but were wasteful, the Mayo powerhouse in particular too slow at the crucial moment.
Geelong’s Johnson then fired over after a mark and Nick Riewolt added another. The visitors managed a paltry three behinds for the 18 minutes, including some atrocious wides.
Any fans unfamiliar with the teams would have struggled to identify which side had to adapt to a different shaped ball.
As the half-time hooter went, the holders trailed by 28 points, 35-7.
Wingard and McVeigh added overs before Ireland eventually got to the pace of the game in the next quarter.
Monaghan’s Darren Hughes found space behind the Aussie defence and shot low past goalkeeper Dustin Fletcher. The six-pointer was quickly followed by overs from Mattie Donnelly (2) and Conor McManus (2) as Ireland reduced the deficit to 16 points, winning the period 23-11.
But that margin was too big for the amateurs as Australia did enough to stay ahead in the final quarter.
Overs from Wingard, Sam Mitchell and Kieren Jack gave them breathing space, but Ireland were thrown a lifeline when Mick Smith smashed home a stunning OG from an attempted clearance after Murphy saw his shot saved by Fletcher.
McManus then hit his third three-pointer of the day before Ireland had the ball in the back of the net again but Fletcher was fouled while making an impressive goal-line mark.
But it was too little too late as the Australians, led by skipper Joel Selwood and man of the match Luke Hodge, proved that they can easily step up to the level required when motivated to do so.
The series will surely survive as long as they continue to follow the template laid down in this game.
Australia (0-17-5) 56
Ireland (2-9-7) 46
1st quarter score: Aus 22-4 Irl
Half-time score: Aus 35-7 Irl
3rd quarter score: Aus 46-30 Irl
Full-time score: Aus 56-46 Irl
1st quarter: Aus 22-4 Irl
2nd quarter: Aus 13-3 Irl
3rd quarter: Aus 11-23 Irl
4th quarter: Aus 10-16 Irl
Ireland scorers: C McManus 12 (0-4-0), D Hughes 7 (1-0-1), Nick Smith 6 (Own Goal), M Donnelly 6 (0-2-0), M Murphy 3 (0-1-0), K McKernan 3 (0-1-0), C Begley 3 (0-1-0), S Cavanagh 2 (0-0-2), C O’Neill 1 (0-0-1), P Hanley 1 (0-0-1), R Munnelly 1 (0-0-1), D Moran 1 (0-0-1).
Australia scorers: N Riewoldt 13 (0-3-1), S Johnson 12 (0-4-0), C Wingard 9 (0-3-0), J McVeigh 6 (0-2-0), R Gray 5 (0-1-2, Luke Breust 4 (0-1-1), J Selwood 3 (0-1-0), B Harvey 3 (0-1-0), K Jack 3 (0-1-0), B Smith 1 (0-0-1).
Ireland: Colm Begley (Laois), Colm Boyle (Mayo), Seán Cavanagh (Tyrone), Cathal Cregg (Roscommon), Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone), Finian Hanley (Galway), Pearse Hanley (Brisbane Lions), Darren Hughes (Monaghan), Lee Keegan (Mayo), James McCarthy (Dublin), Ciaran McDonald (Tipperary), Neil McGee (Donegal), Chrissy McKaigue (Derry), Kevin McKernan (Down), Kevin McLoughlin (Mayo), Conor McManus (Monaghan), David Moran (Kerry), Ross Munnelly (Laois), Michael Murphy (Donegal) (captain), Colm O'Neill (Cork), Paddy O'Rourke (Meath), Aidan O'Shea (Mayo), Aidan Walsh (Cork) (vice-captain).
Australia: Dustin Fletcher (Essendon), Grant Birchall (Hawthorn), Travis Boak (Port Adelaide), Luke Breust (Hawthorn), Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide), Brendan Goddard (Essendon), Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide), Brent Harvey (North Melbourne), Luke Hodge (Hawthorn), Kieren Jack (Sydney Swans), Steve Johnson (Geelong), Jarrad McVeigh (Sydney Swans), Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn), Leigh Montagna (St Kilda), Nic Naitanui (West Coast), Nick Riewoldt (St Kilda), Tom Rockliff (Brisbane Lions), Joel Selwood (Geelong) (capt), Brodie Smith (Adelaide), Nick Smith (Sydney Swans), Harry Taylor (Geelong), Jobe Watson (Essendon), Chad Wingard (Port Adelaide).