Ireland flanker CJ Stander savoured the Dublin victory over Australia and admitted it capped an “unbelievable” year.
After victory in Chicago against the All Blacks, and a success over the Springboks in Cape Town in which Stander was sent off, toppling the Wallabies 27-24 at home was a strong way to sign off 2016.
It was especially sweet, coming on the back of the home defeat to New Zealand last week.
Stander said: “We worked hard this week. After last week we were a bit disappointed.
“A few boys stepped up, a few boys playing out of position, and it was nice to see. I’m very proud of the lads.”
Asked how it felt for Ireland to have claimed their big scalps this year, Stander said on Sky Sports: “I think you can see in my smile and you can hear from the crowd, it’s unbelievable.
“We worked hard, we set goals at the beginning of the year to do that stuff, so it’s a stepping stone for the next one.”
Ireland had led 17-0 towards the end of the first half, after Iain Henderson and Garry Ringrose surged over.
Dane Haylett-Petty began the fightback on the stroke of the interval, before second-half tries from Tevita Kuridrani and Sefanaia Naivalu sent Australia into the lead.
But the hosts had more in the tank and Keith Earls dotted down in the left corner to nudge Ireland ahead once more. Paddy Jackson added the extras and Ireland carried a three-point advantage into the final 10 minutes.
Man of the match Josh van der Flier was relieved Ireland got the job done.
“Australia are a brilliant, brilliant team,” he said.
“They score off every opportunity you give them.
“They’re a class, class team and we really had to grind hard for that win.
“It’s always nice to get man of the match but I thought you could have given it to anyone. All of the lads fronted up, especially in defence.”
Australia captain Stephen Moore admitted his team “probably weren’t physical enough” in the first half, and praised Irish persistence once the game turned after the interval.
“Ireland kept coming and they deserved the win,” Moore said. “We’re gutted obviously but credit to Ireland, they played very well.”
Australia face England at Twickenham next week, the finale to the autumn international series, and Moore vowed they will rise to the occasion.
He added: “We knew this was a five-week tour, we have to, it’s tough and we’ve got to pick ourselves up tomorrow and go again.”