IRELAND will go into their final pool match of the U20 World Championship against Scotland on Saturday with little more than pride to play for following their 42-26 defeat to South Africa in Treviso last night.
Coach Mike Ruddock will rue a shambolic lineout and Ireland’s inescapable physical deficiencies. They simply could not deal with the sheer size and poundage of the Baby Boks.
South Africa will progress to a pool decider with the heaviest pack in the competition against an equally muscular England, while Ireland will have to handle a difficult Scotland to salvage one win out of three matches.
The Scots will relish the opportunity to build on their rather unkind final scoreline of 39-18 against England last night, showing plenty of control from their outhalf Duncan Weir and spark out wide.
Not even the predatory instincts of Andrew Conway could save Ireland from another loss as he split the South African defence in two with a piece of brilliance before the interval to narrow the gap to 27-16.
The Irish thundered into the second-half as their continuity game began to tell in the hot and humid conditions. The ball began to go to hand.
A typically sublime raid down the right by Conway ended with his crossfield kick looking odds-on to be turned into a try by left wing Craig Gilroy only for an unfortunate bounce to ruin a certain fivepointer.
At that point, Ireland trailed by eight and looked the more likely as the larger South Africans struggled with the pace of the game. However, a cavalry of replacements replenished the Boks’ defence.
Ace poacher Conway secured tries seven and eight in his second year playing in this premier age-grade tournament – the U20 record holder is New Zealander Zac Guildford on 10.
The way Ireland play will give Conway better than an even chance of surpassing this total as they contemplate a contest against Scotland, who have also lost two from two.