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Ireland out-think South African brawn in convincing win at the Aviva

Tries from Rhys Ruddock and Tommy Bowe gave Ireland victory despite Springbok dominance in the scrum.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland  29

South Africa 15

IRELAND PRODUCED A brilliant display of intelligent and intense rugby to inflict defeat on South Africa in the opening Test of the November series.

Second half tries from Rhys Ruddock and Tommy Bowe opened up the 16 point gap between the sides that scarcely seemed credible pre-match.

South Africa hit back through Marcell Coetzee and JP Pietersen tries, but with Jonathan Sexton in form and kicking six opportunities out of six from the tee, Joe Schmidt’s side were not to be undone.

Ireland made their intentions very clear early on as three high balls were sent in to the night sky from a variety of positions. Sexton kicked an eighth minute penalty to capitalise on the early territorial dominance.

As the minutes clicked into their teens however, South Africa looked more assured in possession . Jan Serfontein broke through a midfield gap and there were some ominous phases to follow as the ‘Boks back-line stretched its legs. Fortunately for Ireland, passes at crucial times went forward or behind the man.

Ireland survived the bout of pressure and doubled their lead after the visitors were penalised on their 22 after a brilliant, mazy counter-attacking break from Rob Kearney.

As expected, Ireland’s scrum came under immense pressure from the Springboks with Jack McGrath singled out for penalties by Romaine Poite.

The early territorial advantage was short-lived and a quarter of the opening half was spent inside the Ireland 22. Were it not for hasty decisions to kick for the corners the ‘Boks would certainly have put their first score long before the 37th minute.  But that’s how it turned out and Ireland were able to take a 6 – 3 lead into their half-time team talk.

A sublime Robbie Henshaw kick from the 10-metre line ensured South Africa would begin the second half on the back foot. And despite the loss of John Plumtree to the Ireland setup, the maul looked no less efficient when Ruddock was able to come through the middle and over the line to give Ireland a try and (after Sexton’s conversion) a 10-point lead.

South Africa responded well, and got a maul rumbling for a try of their own soon after through Coetzee, but Ireland were not showing signs of wilting under the pressure and stuck to the task.

Breathing space

Sexton kicked his third penalty of the day to give his side some breathing space and Joe Schmidt’s side were able to fill their lungs when replacement Adriaan Strauss was yellow carded with 14 minutes remaining.

After another Sexton penalty, Conor Murray came up with a trademark cross-field kick into the path of Bowe and the wing sent the Aviva Stadium into raptures as the victory was secured.

The scoreboard was all that was left to be finalised, JP Pietersen running in a try down South Africa’s right wing while Ian Madigan kicked Ireland’s fifth penalty at the other end.

Ireland tries: Ruddock, Bowe. Conversions: Sexton (2). Penalties: Sexton (4), Madigan.

South Africa tries: Coetzee, Pietersen. Conversion: Pollard. Penalties: Pollard.


15. Rob Kearney
14. Tommy Bowe
13. Jared Payne
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Simon Zebo
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Sean Cronin
3. Mike Ross
4. Devin Toner
5. Paul O’Connell (c)
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Rhys Ruddock
8. Jamie Heaslip

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Dave Kilcoyne, Rodney Ah You, Mike McCarthy, Tommy O’Donnell, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Felix Jones.


15. Willie le Roux
14. Cornal Hendricks
13. Jan Serfontein
12. Jean de Villiers
11. Bryan Habana
10. Handré Pollard
9. Francois Hougaard

1. Tendai Mtawarira
2. Bismarck du Plessis
3. Jannie du Plessis
4. Eben Etzebeth
5. Victor Matfield
6. Marcell Coetzee
7. Teboho Mohoje
8. Duane Vermeulen

Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger, Cobus Reinach, Patrick Lambie, JP Pietersen.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)

As it happened: Ireland v South Africa, November Tests

Late blow for Ireland as Chris Henry ruled out of Springboks clash

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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