IRELAND STUN SPRINGBOKS in an exciting encounter at the Aviva Stadium.
Johnny Sexton was the ‘Munster Haka Man of the Match’ as Ireland out witted an incredible South Africa team in their Autumn International opener.
This is how the game was on and lost in brief:
The frontrow of Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin and Mike Ross was always significantly weaker then their respective opposite numbers on paper. However, in the opening 20 at least, Ireland were rewarded with penalties from controversial French referee Romain Poite.
As the half progressed, the decisions swung the other way but surprisingly it wasn’t Mike Ross (Returning from injury) but Jack McGrath, whom was now at the wrong end of Poite’s perspective. This however, was unimportant as Ireland had already set down the mark that they would not be bullied and that they would not give South Africa a mental advantage.
Ireland were never going to out muscle South Africa. The quick ball retention was important for the team as an ‘arm-wrestle’ for possession would be really unwanted considering the bulk of the visitors pack. Off the back of the work done by Peter O’Mahony and co, Conor Murray kept up his confident performances but with Johnny Sexton outside him, an equally as special player. The duo kicked and stretched South Africa off the third phase. When they tried to counter attack, Robbie Henshaw and the backline starred in defense. Hence, the Boks were forced to play tight for patches but on a night when prop Jack McGrath racked up the most tackles, they didn’t do any better in that department. Ireland dictated the game and got maximum reward for going about their business intelligently.
Willie le Who?
Ireland’s kicking game was based around the idea of stretching the Springbok’s back three. Rob Kearney had an excellent game from 15 despite missing a lot of game time this season while Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe played their usual back field roles.
The kicking of each individual was perfected at angles and heights to allow good chases. The execution was something that unsettled the South African players outside of the contact areas and a series of fumbles from Willie Le Roux coughed up his side’s possession to Ireland.
||29 – 15||
Ireland: Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Chris Henry, Peter O’Mahony; Paul O’Connell (captain), Devin Toner; Mike Ross, Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath.
Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Dave Kilcoyne, Rodney Ah You, Mike McCarthy, Rhys Ruddock, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Felix Jones.
South Africa: Willie le Roux; Cornal Hendricks, Jan Serfontein, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Francois Hougaard; Duane Vermeulen, Teboho Mohoje, Marcell Coetzee; Victor Matfield, Eben Etzebeth; Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, JP Pietersen.
What a great night for Ireland! Can the team build on this and continue their rebirth under Joe Schmidt? This group are proving themselves big time.