Ad imageAd image

Ireland Whips South African Springboks 19-16

6 Min Read

Ireland emboldened their world number-one credentials with a tense, 19-16 win against South Africa at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday.

More than a little battered and bruised, and somewhat patchwork, by the start of the second half, Ireland stood up to the physical assault, they kept playing ambitious rugby and seeking the spaces to conjure two tries and then withstand a furious Springboks backlash.

Punishing and pulsating in equal measure, it was also absorbing, and punctuated by stoppages, unnecessary piped music, injuries, contentious decisions and some sleight of hand and creative rugby, with even the Boks adding some of the latter in their desperation to retrieve the game. The Irish players really had to put their bodies on the line, and the crowd roared them on in the process.

The keys to the Irish win was their solid scrum and maul defence, which denied the Boks their preferred mode of intimidation and domination. Hats off to Paul O’Connell, John Fogarty and the forwards for that, and also their attacking flair.

With Stuart McCloskey, after an impressive first quarter, the unfortunate Conor Murray on his big day and Tadhg Furlong all gone by the interval, unexpected heroes turn up. Jimmy O’Brien came into a reshuffled midfield and this polished, versatile rugby player had a fine Test debut, while Jamison Gibson-Park belied his lack of game time this season by providing an impudent creative spark, and after his second-half scrummaging, it really is time to give Finlay Bealham a break.

The Boks went over the edge when Cheslin Kolbe and Pieter-Steph du Toit combined in a clear spear tackle on Mack Hansen, tipping him over the horizontal and driving him into the ground. It was gruesome to watch, but Kolbe only received a yellow card. He gets away with stuff that others don’t sometime.The first half went largely according to the preordained script between these two sharply contrasting sides. True to type, the Springboks brought unrelenting physicality in their punishing hits, especially, and also carries.

They went to the lineout maul on five occasions, but the Irish defensive maul was excellent, holding them on four occasions, and another nearing half-time the pressure on the throw forced a knock-on by Eben Etzebeth which somehow all four officials managed to miss.

They also brought their blitz defence at maximum voltage, and so Ireland sought to go around them with decoy runners, pull backs and skips passes, and holding their width. They found space sometimes but long passes didn’t go to hand. It was dicey, but they had to roll the dice. It was also at times dangerous for their health. Johnny Sexton tipped on one pass for McCloskey to release Hugo Keenan.

Sexton’s first of two first-half penalties came from Garry Ringrose reclaiming Murray’s lofted box-kick off second phase and Damian de Allende not rolling away.

Ireland had to withstand a punishing 17-phase attack before Damian Willemse levelled, and McCloskey was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the jackal, although he would soon earn one after tackling Jasper Weisse.

There followed the double spear tackle on Hansen by Kolbe and Du Toit which should have seen red. There were further tolls too, Murray tweaking or pulling something after a lovely dummy and break off a lineout, which led to Sexton making it 6-3. The centurion has rarely looked more crestfallen.

By then they’d also lost McCloskey, who also couldn’t believe his luck when departing with his forearm in a sling after a very impressive first quarter highlighted by one carry to take Ireland out of trouble. So O’Brien came on at outside centre, with Ringrose shifting inside.

Ireland came closest to a try when Dan Sheehan charged down Willemse’s kick, nudged the ball over the line and beat Jesse Kriel to the touchdown, but knocked on in doing so.

Willemse also had a bad miss from in front of the posts, meaning that after Kolbe returned he took over from in front of the posts to level matters with the last kick of the half.

So, two frontrunners had largely cancelled each other out, but it had seemed to be more on the Boks’ terms. Although they also lost Franco Mostert by half-time, Furlong could only limp to the interval as well, and a punishing half featuring countless stoppages had taken 56 minutes.

Yet with Bealham holding his own at scrum time, Ireland flew out of the blocks and made their push for the winning line. O’Brien made a big line break up the middle and with Sexton down receiving treatment Ringrose and Hansen became playmakers, the later also going through a hole created by Jamison Gibson-Park’s pass behind his back.

Leave a comment