AUSTRALIA 16 IRELAND 20
Key moment: In an archetypal game of two halves, Ireland hung on for their lives to claim the third and final Test at a sold-out Allianz Stadium and secure victory in the first three-Test series between these two well-matched sides.
It was a close-run thing to the very end as Australia pushed for a game and series-winning try win the final minute, fly-half Bernard Foley pushing the envelope a little too forcefully with a long pass out wide into touch.
Still the drama was not over as referee Pascal Gauzere asked the TMO to check a potential deliberate knock-on by Jacob Stockdale.
In a decision which would have turned this contest upside down, TMO Ben Skeen of New Zealand took an age to determine Stockdale had not touched the ball despite the crowd, the Irish contingent at least, having made their minds up several replays earlier.
Talking point: What an end to a remarkable season for Ireland as they follow up Six Nations success and a first Grand Slam in nine years with a series victory in the Southern Hemisphere.
The lap of honour around Allianz Stadium in front of a massive contingent of travelling supporters in a stadium-record crowd of 44,085 was thoroughly deserved as they came from one-nil down in the series to defeat a Wallabies side with plenty to prove themselves on home soil.
For Ireland, it also serves a timely reminder that not only are they the kings of Northern Hemisphere rugby but also worthy and serious contenders for next year’s World Cup.
A first visit in tournament history to at least the semi-finals has now to be the next major objective for head coach Joe Schmidt’s remaining time in charge.
Key man: CJ Stander returned to blindside flanker in a reshuffled back row and what a performance the Munster star put in with a tireless 80-minute shift.
Scoring Ireland’s only try of the game was the icing on the cake on an evening in which he carried tirelessly and tackled as if it was his final game.
Ref watch: Pascal Gauzere of France did not cover himself in glory.
During an opening half which saw both sides receive a yellow card, Jacob Stockdale was binned for leading with an elbow into Nick Phipps.
It was a margin call and could have gone either way as to whether I merited a yellow but Israel Folau was unfortunate to follow suit.
The Wallabies full-back was deemed to have taken Peter O’Mahony out in the air at a restart despite the TMO Ben Skeen and referee Gauzere deeming it a fair challenge.
Work that one out.
Even more puzzling was why Ireland were not awarded a penalty try after Adam Coleman was ruled offside in front of his posts having blocked Conor Murray’s attempt to score against the upright.
The second half was not much better as he made a series of inconsistent decisions, not least penalising Wallabies front-rower Tolu Latu for going off his feet when he appeared to be supporting his own body weight.
It led to Johnny Sexton’s 78th-minute penalty which opened a four-point lead at the death, not enough to change the outcome but sufficient to aggrieve the home fans.
Penalties conceded: Australia 13 Ireland 12
Injuries: Starting hooker Sean Cronin suffered a grade one hamstring injury on the eve of the game, joining Garry Ringrose (foot), Andrew Conway (hip), Dan Leavy (sternum) and Iain Henderson (knee) as the Irish players ruled out of the final Test.
Cronin was replaced by Niall Scannell.
Both teams lost their skippers in the opening 40 minutes, Peter O’Mahony landing badly on a shoulder on the 30-minute mark, 14 minutes after opposing openside Michael Hooper limped off the field.
Rob Kearney left the field in the second half after landing awkwardly on his shoulder.
Next up: Ireland complete the 2017-18 campaign on a triumphant note with a series win in Australia to add to their Six Nations Grand Slam.
The beach awaits with the national team’s next game on November 3 when Joe Schmidt’s team return to Chicago to play Italy at Soldier Field ahead of a three-game Guinness Series in Dublin against Argentina (November 11), New Zealand (November 18) and the USA (November 25).
Thoughts of that can wait awhile, though, for the end of the season is here.