Heartbreak for Ireland as Springboks come back from the dead to level series
SOUTH AFRICA 32 IRELAND 26
HISTORY slipped through Ireland’s fingers at Ellis Park as a second-half power surge from South Africa saw them storm back from 19-3 down to level the series.
The tourists dominated 50 minutes of this absorbing second battle, before the Springboks finally clicked and blew them away.
It means the longest season will go down to a decider in Port Elizabeth next Saturday and the momentum is firmly with Allister Coetzee’s side.
Having licked their wounds all week, it was no surprise to see the Springboks make a fast start and get in the much-changed Irish side’s faces.
The game had yet to settle when they went in front, with Tadhg Furlong conceding a penalty at the scrum which allowed Elton Jantjes nail a penalty from half-way.
A penalty against Andrew Trimble put Ireland on the back foot again but their defence continued its good work from last week when Paddy Jackson cleverly stripped Siya Kolisi of possession when the home attacked appeared to be gaining momentum.
Instead the Ulster out-half was able to level as Francois Louw was penalised for not rolling away, before he put his side in front when the Bath flanker strayed offside minutes later.
Back South African came, Willie le Roux thought he’d escaped when he latched on to Jantjes’ chip only for the long arm of Devin Toner to intervene, before Conor Murray tackled Damian de Allende, but failed to roll away.
Sensing an opportunity, Adriaan Strauss went to the corner but Ireland dealt with the maul and then Robbie Henshaw robbed De Allende of possession as Ireland breathed once again.
Still, South Africa came but a big tackle from the impressive Rhys Ruddock halted Strauss in his march and Ireland countered. At the end of a breathless phase, the visitors were awarded a scrum, forced a penalty and Jackson stretched their lead to six points.
Ireland were growing into the game and Jackson added another penalty when JP Pietersen failed to release the tackled player after a strong attack featuring Stuart Olding and Iain Henderson.
Trimble handed Jantjes an opportuinity with a silly penalty, but the out-half hit the post from distance and, when Devin Toner failed to release on the ground after collecting the re-bound, Jantjes sent his effort wide.
Instead, it was Ireland who were to add to their lead as Lwasi Mvovo failed to deal with Jackson’s up and under, allowing Jared Payne to pounce and surge towards the Springbok line.
He came up short, but Ruddock took the ball on and shifted it to Toner and the big second-row wasn’t to be stopped from distance.
Jackson converted to give his side a 19-3 lead and, although he missed his next penalty attempt, the half-time whistle was greeted by loud boos as the locals displayed their unhappiness with their team.
Allister Coetzee turned to local heroes Warren Whiteley and Ruan Combrinck at the break and there was an increased urgency about their play as play resumed, but their inaccuracy continued as Kolisi knocked on in the ’22 with Ireland scrambling and le Roux passed the ball into touch.
Jackson missed a long-range effort to increase his lead and a loose box-kick from Conor Murray invited the hosts to counter and, while de Allende put a foot in touch with Ireland in trouble, referee Angus Gardner was playing advantage and Strauss went to the corner.
Again, Ireland dealt with the maul and Craig Gilroy did well to tackle Lionel Mapoe although he knocked on in doing so.
Jackson forced a Jantjes knock-on with a big tackle, but his subsequent clearance invited le Roux to counter and he brilliantly rounded Jack McGrath, before drawing Payne to put Ruan Combrinck over.
Jantjes converted and the Johannesburg venue was on its feet, but the visiting team soon silenced the stadium again as Furlong charged down Faf de Klerk’s clearance and raced into the ’22.
Ireland couldn’t score, but they did get a penalty and Rory Best ordered Jackson to kick to touch. From the lineout, the green pack mauled over with Jamie Heaslip scoring the try.
Jackson converted from the sideline, but the hosts responded in kind as the game began to open up.
Combrinck blew Payne out of his way, before his fellow Lion Whiteley side-stepped Trimble to score.
Jantjes missed the conversion and the gap stayed at 11 points, but the momentum was all with the hosts and they didn’t have to wait long before Pieter-Steph du Toit powered over from close range and Jantjes narrowed the margin to four.
And the pressure told when Franco Mostert picked off the lineout and the Springboks attacked up the right, before De Allende powered through a tired tackle from Murray and Trimble to score the winning try.
Jantjes added a penalty for good measure as the ‘Boks ensure the series goes to the wire.
SOUTH AFRICA – W le Roux; JP Pietersen, L Mapoe, D de Allende, L Mvovo (R Combrinck h-t); E Jantjes (M Steyn 60-63), F de Klerk; T Mtawarira (T Nkayane 51), A Strauss (capt), F Malherbe (J Redelinghuys 47); E Etzebeth, PS du Toit; F Louw, S Kolisi (F Mostert 68), D Vermeulen (W Whiteley h-t).
IRELAND – J Payne (T O’Halloran 77); A Trimble, R Henshaw (I Madigan 77), S Olding, C Gilroy; P Jackson, C Murray (K Marmion 77); J McGrath (D Kilcoyne 68), R Best (capt) (R Strauss 67), T Furlong (F Bealham 60); D Toner, Q Roux (D Ryan 51); I Henderson (S Reidy 71), R Ruddock (S Reidy 43-50 blood), J Heaslip.
Referee: A Gardner (Australia)