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Late Flurry Fires Ireland To Record-Breaking Win Over Springboks

13th November 2017 By The Editor

Andrew Conway scores his first try for Ireland

Three closing tries ensured Ireland finished with a flourish as they ran out comprehensive 38-3 winners over a well-beaten South African side at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night.

Seven Munster players featured in the victory as Andrew Conway scored his first international try and Darren Sweetnam made his Ireland debut as a replacement.

Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander, Conor Murray and Conway all started the clash with John Ryan, Dave Kilcoyne and Sweetnam featuring off the bench.

It was Ireland’s biggest ever winning margin and most points scored against the Springboks, the hosts’ bench inspiring a late surge as scores from replacements Rhys Ruddock and Rob Herring, and a terrific team try grounded by Jacob Stockdale on his home debut, saw them underline their superiority.

Debutant centre Bundee Aki played the full 80 minutes, impressively particularly in defence where he made 17 tackles, and there were notable appearances too for replacement hooker Herring, who won his second cap and first since 2014, and Corkman Sweetnam who made his bow and was involved in the build-up to Stockdale’s memorable 80th-minute effort.

It was a very good night for Ireland’s wingers with Conway crossing for his first international try off a Conor Murray box-kick, 24 minutes in. Man-of-the-match Jonathan Sexton had landed three successful penalties up to that point, with Murray and Sexton’s accurate kicking out of hand helping Joe Schmidt’s men to win the tactical battle.

Trailing 14-0 at half-time, the struggling South Africans briefly showed some promise with a Elton Jantjies penalty but Ireland continued to frustrate them in defence and at the breakdown where CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, who led the team out on the occasion of his 50th cap, and captain Rory Best made nuisances of themselves.

Sexton restored the 14-point lead with his fourth successful penalty before the replacements rubber-stamped Ireland’s dominance with three converted tries in a 10-minute spell, eclipsing their biggest previous victory over the Springboks from 2006 (32-15).

Ruddock stepped neatly to score the first, Herring then crashed over from a lineout maul, and the best was saved to last when a free-flowing move, sparked by Stockdale’s counter and Joey Carbery’s cross-field kick over to Sweetnam, culminated in the young Ulster winger gleefully diving over in the left corner.

Ireland head coach Schmidt said it was a ‘satisfying’ way to start to the Guinness Series, praising his side’s kicking and set pieces and picking out the ‘super’ Conway, but he felt the final score ‘flattered us a little bit’ and that they have plenty to work on ahead of their remaining November matches against Fiji and Argentina.

“I think in the last four Test matches we’ve played against South Africa, it’s been one or two-score margins. We scored the bulk of our points in the last 10 or 12 minutes. We went flat in that third quarter, disappointed with that, but at the same time they had to put themselves back in the game,” he said.

“I was really worried before the game, just because of that last game South Africa had played, and the quality of their players. It is incredibly satisfying to go out, watch the players bring the energy and accuracy, most of the time, they did.

“I grew up watching South African teams be pretty dominant when they were at their peak. I don’t actually think this Springbok team is very far away from that. It’s satisfying (to get the win), it’s a relief.”

Wearing their new all-grey alternate kit, Ireland laid down an early marker with a crunching double tackle from Sexton and Aki which unfortunately resulted in Coenie Oosthuizen sustaining a game-ending knee injury. Tendai Mtawarira collapsed the resulting scrum and Sexton boomed a 41-metre penalty through the posts for a third-minute lead.

The visitors should have profited from a three-on-one overlap on the left wing, however Damian de Allende took the wrong option and his poorly-executed kick allowed Conway to relieve the pressure. The scrum continued to be an issue for the ‘Boks, coughing up another penalty and a free-kick, before a second Sexton three-pointer punished Lood de Jager for not rolling away quickly enough.

Ireland pushed into a 9-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, a wraparound involving Robbie Henshaw and Sexton seeing the latter connect with Conway who scampered up to the South African 22. Siya Kolisi infringed on the 22-metre line and Sexton raised the flags for a third time.

Returning full-back Rob Kearney increased his influence with a couple of weaving runs on kick returns, and the West Stand crowd loved the sight of Iain Henderson bulldozing South African captain Eben Etzebeth out of the way.

Ireland fell further behind when Murray used maul possession to send up a skyscraper of a box-kick, which Courtnall Skosan and Ross Cronje failed to gather, and Conway reacted quickest to gobble it up and dash clear for an opportunist try in the right corner. Sexton’s conversion attempt bounced back off the near post.

Sexton’s late challenge on Jantjies allowed the ‘Boks to build some pressure in the Irish 22, however it was Stander who won a relieving penalty at the breakdown to clear the danger.

Kolisi’s misplaced pass prevented South Africa from ending the first half on the front foot, while Sexton’s infringement for taking a player out past the ball, coupled with a Stockdale pass which did not go to hand, saw Ireland’s late endeavour go unrewarded.

The South Africans made almost immediate inroads on the resumption, though, as Jantjies punished Stander’s high tackle on Mtawarira to put his side on the scoreboard. They saw more of the possession in a dour third quarter, but Ireland’s line-speed in defence and first-up tackles gave the ‘Boks little room to manoeuvre.

A Ruddock breakdown penalty launched Ireland forward nearing the hour mark, and with South Africa guilty of hands in the ruck, Sexton nudged over a central kick to make it 17-3. The hosts were loading up to strike again when Malcolm Marx, a turnover specialist during the recent Rugby Championship, got in a good position to win a relieving penalty.

Ireland continued to disrupt in defence, with Kearney and Sexton both clearing well from the 22 with the boot and skipper Best showing off his breakdown skills before he was replaced for the final 14 minutes.

A big man-and-ball tackle by Stockdale on Dillyn Leyds, which secured a turnover, raised the decibel level around the ground, and just a couple of minutes later, Stockdale zoomed onto Sexton’s inside pass to make a telling break. He passed wide to Conway and after both he and Stander were stopped short, it was Ruddock who rumbled over from five metres out for a well-worked try, converted by Sexton.

Replacement prop John Ryan was quickly up to speed, having a hand in two penalty awards – including the scrum which led to five-metre lineout and Herring’s try. Ruddock, Dave Kilcoyne and James Ryan were all central to a power-packed maul.

Carbery, the last man off Ireland’s bench, converted and he also added a brilliant touchline kick to turn Stockdale’s slick score into a seven-pointer. Kieran Marmion and Sweetnam, who retained possession near the right touchline under pressure from two defenders, did really well in the build-up, James Ryan also punching a hole before skip passes from Henshaw and Conway released Stockdale for his second try in three Tests.

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