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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 22 February, 2020

Schmidt's Ireland come up short as Springboks claim series victory

The refereeing call from Glen Jackson and his TMO had a big bearing on the result.

South Africa 19

Ireland 13

Rory Keane reports from Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium 

IN THE END, it proved a Test too far.

After two thrilling contests in Cape Town and Johannesburg, when just six points separated the sides on both occasions, it was fitting that this deciding Test should come right down to the final play.

Keith Earls is tackled by JP Pietersen and Pieter Steph du Toit Keith Earls is halted by the Boks defence. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Trailing 19-13 with the final hooter ringing around the stadium, Ireland battered the Springboks line but a wonderful tackle from Faf de Klerk on Keith Earls lifted the siege and secured a thrilling series for home side.

It was a game where Ireland’s youthful backline mixed the sublime and the ridiculous. Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding and O’Halloran all showed great attacking touches with ball in hand but were also guilty of some schoolboy errors.

Marshall in particular enjoyed quite the eventful first-half. The Ulster centre was guilty of a few handling errors and wayward kicks but he also showed startling acceleration for his opening try while his sparking break should have led to more with Keith Earls free on his outside. Throw in a few crucial defensive efforts and the 25-year-old was having quite at a game here in Port Elizabeth.

The scrum was a big worry throughout the opening 40 minutes Glen Jackson penalising Ireland three times at the set-piece, which cost them six points on the scoreboard.

Willie le Roux will count himself a lucky Bok after his aerial challenge on Tiernan O’Halloran requiring the Connacht man requiring medical treatment after he had landed awkwardly on his back. After CJ Stander’s red card for a similar challenge in the first-half, Le Roux’s subsequent yellow is sure to generate plenty of debate in rugby circles over the coming days.

The match began in dramatic fashion with O’Halloran given an immediate introduction to Test rugby as Jantjies landed the kick-off straight on top of him, the Connacht full-back passing his first aerial challenge with flying colours.

Marshall got ahead of Murray’s box kick leading handing Jantjies his first penalty kick of the evening. The Lions fly-half firing over from the right touchline to put the Boks 3-0 to the good. A big shove from the Boks pack yielded Jantjies’ second successive penalty, but his long-range effort drifted wide and right.

Then came a seismic moment in the contest as Le Roux collided with O’Halloran in mid-air chasing yet another Springbok aerial bomb. Glen Jackson showed the Sharks full-back a yellow card as O’Halloran left the field for a Head Injury Assessment. Matt Healy entered the fray to earn his first cap as Keith Earls shifted to fill the vacant full-back slot.

Luke Marshall scores a try Luke Marshall scored a first-half try for Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ireland went for the jugular immediately as Olding stepped Louw from quick lineout ball. Henderson and Stander were hugely prominent in the build-up before Marshal burst through some weak Bok tackling to score. Jackson fired over the conversion to make it 7-3.

Stander continued to lead the change and, after Devin Toner had carried hard in toe the Boks defence, Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira was penalised for coming in at the side. Jackson, who had scored 35 points in this series coming into today’s game, missed the relatively easy effort.

Almost immediately, however, Jackson was afforded another shot at the post as the home side strayed offside once more. The Ulster No 10 made no mistake this time as Ireland edged out to a 10-3 lead.

Jackson could count himself lucky when his attempted pass to Marshall was intercepted by Mapoe; the Lions centre subsequently knocking the ball on. From the ensuing scrum, the Boks put in another big shove with Jack McGrath pinged for collapsing. Jantjies tagged on the resulting penalty to cut Ireland’s lead to four points.

With 10 minutes remaining, Damian de Allende steamrolled over Jackson in midfield but Marshall crucial ball-and-all tackle on Jantjies with Ireland looking stretched out wide.

The outstanding Henderson then ripped the ball from De Klerk, after the scrum-half had quick-tapped a free-kick, leading to an Irish breakout with Marshall scything through the Boks defence but he couldn’t find Earls outside him with the Munster winger having a clear run to the line.

Almost inevitably, the Boks punished Ireland at the other end of the field as Pietersen raced onto Jantjies’ perfectly weighted cross-kick to stroll over in the corner. The Boks fly-half converted from the touchline as the Boks went in at half-time 13-10 ahead.

O’Halloran did not return after the break as Healy came on to continue his Ireland debut.

Worryingly, Ireland were beginning to soak tackles early in the second-half as De Allende, Whiteley and Pietersen began to make big carries over the gainline.

Paddy Jackson kicks a penalty Jackson kicks a penalty for Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Pietersen deliberately blocked Healy’s attempted pass giving Ireland a penalty with Jackson probing the touchline for an attacking lineout. Stander and Murphy made big carries before the Irish pack set up a maul off Stander. Murray then burst away from the maul as Ireland looked certain for a try but Jackson’s long pass to Trimble was picked off by De Klerk. A crucial moment and a certain try gone a begging.

Ireland continued to bang on the door but handling errors put an end to a number of promising attacks.

Allister Coetzee sent on replacement props Steven Kitshoff and Julian Redelinghuys to bolster the Bok scrum and their impact was immediate as the Irish scrummage once again crumbled. Ruan Combrinck landed the monster 50-metre effort with his massive left boot. Not for the first time in this series, six points separated these sides, 16-10 with 20 minutes to go.

Ireland were beginning to tire and, when McGrath came in at the side, Jantjies was handed the opportunity to extend his side’s lead to nine points. Schmidt sent on Eoin Reddan, Ultan Dillane and Rhys Ruddock to try to stem the tide with the series drifting away

Jackson gave Ireland hope with a three-pointer straight from the restart as Reddan won a crucial turnover with his first action of the game.

A wonderful breakout from Sean Cronin, who had replaced Best at hooker, gave Ireland hope late on. The Leinster hooker going 40  yards before feeding Healy who was hauled down 20 metres short of the line. Ireland continued to rock through the phases with the Boks holding on for dear life.

After almost a dozen phases of attack, Ruddock was penalised for holding on as Jantjies cleared to safety.

Back Ireland came though but, after another exhausting period of phases, Earls was caught by De Kerk in possession and that was that. A 2-1 series win for the Boks but Ireland should feel proud of their efforts over the past three weeks.

South Africa scorers:

Tries: JP Pietersen

Penalties: Jantjies [3] Combrinck [1]

Conversions: Jantjies [1]

Yellow Card: Willie le Roux [10-20]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Marshall

Penalties: Jackson [2]

Conversions: Jackson [1]

SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux; Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Damian de Allende, JP Pietersen; Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk; Tendai Mtawarira [Steven Kitshoff ‘56], Adriaan Strauss (captain) [Bongi Mbonambi ‘78], Frans Malherbe [Julian Redelinghuys ‘56]; Eben Etzebeth [Franco Mostert ‘73], Pieter-Steph du Toit; Francois Louw, Siya Kolisi [Jaco Kriel ‘60], Warren Whiteley

Replacements not used: Rudy Paige, Morné Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo

IRELAND: Tiernan O’Halloran [Matt Healy 11-18 HIA, 40]; Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding, Keith Earls [Ian Madigan ’72]; Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray [Eoin Reddan ‘68]; Jack McGrath, Rory Best (captain) [Sean Cronin ‘72], Mike Ross [Tadhg Furlong  ‘50], Iain Henderson [Ultan Dillane ‘], Devin Toner; CJ Stander [Rhys Ruddock ‘68], Jordi Murphy, Jamie Heaslip

Replacements not used:  Finlay Bealham

Referee: Glen Jackson [New Zealand].

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Was a yellow card the right call for this Willie le Roux challenge?

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