Tadhg inspires in Oz win
Powerhouse Furlong delivers man of the match display
Ireland's young powerhouse, Tadhg Furlong, showed the way forward with a man of the match performance in the 26-21 victory over Australia in AAMI Park, Melbourne, on Saturday.
Furlong certainly delivered on the big stage with yet another superb display, capped by a terrific 54th-minute try which all but delivered the win to keep the series alive at 1-1 going into the final game in Sydney this Saturday.
Earlier in the week Ireland's defence coach, Andy Farrell, said he was curious to see what the Irish ticker was made of following their opening game defeat.
And Furlong led the way in answering the question with a powerful performance, capped by a magnificent line break midway through the opening half.
His final pass was almost intercepted as Gary Ringrose would have cut the try line, but the manner in which he won the subsequent breakdown signalled the side's intention.
Ireland may have encountered some scrum problems in the opening game, but on the first scrum call Furlong ploughed into his opposite number despite the front row conceding 17 kg. up front. He drove the Aussies backwards, and that is how it remained for the game.
Furlong was not just prominent in the loose, and his clean out of a ruck ball when faced by the specialist in this aspect of the game, David Pocock, led his full-back Rob Kearney to describe it as one of the finest he had ever seen.
Following this showing, Furlong is now as important to Ireland as Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray.
And those ruck clean-outs were on an equal footing to that of Peter O'Mahony who also forced some excellent turnovers, aspects of the game they will now bring to the eagerly awaited final series test in Sydney this Saturday.
Furlong is renowned for his set-piece and defensive reliability, but it's his handling which has brought a new dimension to front row play, making him one of the best tight head props in the world.
Furlong has the skill level previously unheard of in a prop forward. Aside from his line break in the first-half when he lifted the crowd with that marvellous burst and spring in search of the Aussies' line, his handling and power to take him over the line, giving him his first international try, showed the extra dimension that the former New Ross clubman has brought to his game this season.
Just as interesting was his ability to bring so much variation to his play. For the try, as the Aussies expected the off-load to Conor Murray, the big tight head showed a level of footwork that Ringrose would have been proud of.
And no Aussie was going to prevent the Horeswood native from crashing towards the line and stretching out over those final few metres as his long arms helped him ground the ball just over the line.
As coach Joe Schmidt said: 'I did not think he (Furlong) had such long arms, but no Australia player was going to deny him.'
You don't see that type of performance from a tight head prop too often, but Furlong's display was one to savour. He deservedly took the accolade as man of the match despite some magnificent individual displays from several of his colleagues, particularly Peter O'Mahony and Johnny Sexton.
Now it's on to Sydney next Saturday when Ireland will hope to win the series in what is expected to be a tremendous battle.