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Australia A claims dramatic last gasp win over Ireland A

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After two days of solid rainfall in Limerick, Australia A took to a slippery Thomond Park to take on Ireland A in the second of their Spring Tour matches.


Desperate to erase the memory of a disappointing tour-opening loss to the Ospreys in Swansea two weeks ago, it was a tough start for the Australians, who conceded two early penalties to trail 6-0 in the opening eight minutes of the match.


Played in drizzling rain and a strong breeze that favoured the Irish in the opening stanza, the match was the first played in Limerick by an Australian team since the 1999 World Cup. On that occasion over 20,000 crammed into the rectangular ground to witness the Wallabies beat the USA.


The Australians waited 25 minutes for their first point-scoring opportunity; however the shot at penalty from the boot of fullback Cameron Shepherd was wayward, leaving the home side with a six-point advantage.


The home crowd, which faced early disappointment when a would-be try to winger Robert Kearney was called back for a forward pass, was finally rewarded when fullback Luke Fitzgerald scored the opening try after some impressive lead up work from Irish flanker Stephen Ferris. Staunton’s conversion made it 11-0 to the locals after 32 minutes.


Australia A bombed a chance to answer back immediately when an impressive drive was stalled by the Irish defence before Drew Mitchell spilled the ball in a ruck close to the Irish line.


The first points for the Australians arrived two minutes before the break, when Cameron Shepherd converted a penalty to cut the deficit to eight points at half time.


Both teams came out of the dressing rooms keen to move the ball, and after nine minutes of the second stanza it was the Australians who broke through.


A neat offload from flanker Stephen Hoiles set up a movement which went through the hands before finding an unmarked Adam Ashley-Cooper on the right touch line.


Ashley-Cooper strolled over the line for the team’s first five-pointer, which was converted by Cameron Shepherd to pull the Aussies within one point of their rivals.


After a period of entertaining play where the two teams traded attacking raids, it was Ireland A who nudged further ahead with a third penalty goal from flyhalf Jeremy Staunton, stretching their lead to 14-10 at the half-way mark of the second half.


Australia A continued to make inroads into the Irish defence with some strong attacking play from inside centre Scott Staniforth, who made two decisive busts in the centres.


However some crucial mistakes let the Australians down, before the Irish kicked clear by seven points with a fourth penalty goal when Australia A lock James Horwill was shown a yellow card for a high tackle.


With nine minutes left on the clock, Australia A skipper Al Campbell elected to find touch when his team was awarded a penalty in easy kicking range.


It was a gamble that paid dividends, with flyhalf Mark Gerrard skirting across field and finding Morgan Turinui on the inside for the game-tying try. Turinui ran a perfect line and dragged a defender across the tryline to draw level with the locals.


Australia A Coach John Muggleton used his entire bench during the match, ringing the changes to inject some fresh legs for the final five minutes.


Both teams had their chances with the ball, but it was the Australians who found a way to win. Mark Gerrard kicked through the Irish line from half-way, before Morgan Turinui, who trailed through on the Gerrard kick, put boot to ball again while the ball rolled into the Irish 22.


Ireland A winger John Kelly appeared to have the ball covered, however it popped out of his hands and rolled over the tryline, where Scott Staniforth, who was among the best for the visitors, touched down on the loose ball to score the match-winner in the dying seconds.


In the end, it was a committed performanc

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