Thursday 18 January 2018

Bowe on target as Ireland stun Springboks in series opener

Ireland 29 South Africa 15

Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Ireland's prospects of a clean sweep in the Guinness series look eminently better after a terrific win over South Africa before a full house in Lansdowne Road yesterday evening.

It was only the fifth win for Ireland in 22 games and had they not conceded a late try they would have surpassed the 32-15 result in 2006. Moreover, it would have taken them to third in the IRB rankings - as it is Ireland stay in fifth place, but will be well pleased where they are now.

"It's right up there (in my career) - it's a very important win for us," captain Paul O'Connell said afterwards.

"We made a lot of mistakes out there but I think we were clever at times as well, we scored two very good tries. It's a massive win, but I suppose that's all it is, a Test win.

"To get it against one of the big southern hemisphere teams is massive for us. We spoke before the autumn that we'd like to beat one of the southern hemisphere teams and to get that done today was brilliant."

Joe Schmidt has an extra day to prepare his players ahead of round two - against Georgia on Sunday - and then Michael Cheika's Wallabies, who beat Wales yet again yesterday, come to Dublin.

"I'm delighted with the performance, I don't think you can ask for too much more from a courage perspective," said Schmidt. "I think that there's a number of players who really stood up physically to a really tough assignment."

Schmidt is certain to rest up to half of the players who did so well here. Rob Kearney, Johnny Sexton, Jack McGrath, Paul O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony and Jamie Heaslip all should be given a week off against what will be weak opposition.

The interesting call will be in midfield where Schmidt caught everyone off guard last week with his pairing of Robbie Henshaw and new cap Jared Payne. The partnership worked very well, and despite the presence in the squad of a fit Gordon D'Arcy, Schmidt should start yesterday's pair with a view to bedding them in ahead of the Six Nations.

"We speak all the time about being able to improve week on week, month on month, campaign on campaign, and I think unfortunately when we look back on that there will be a lot of things to improve on: the scrum, the lineout," O'Connell added.

Ireland were shunted at the scrum, and between that and a pressured lineout they lost six feeds, against the Boks' 100 per cent return from the set-piece. It contributed to a penalty count of 10, three higher than the average in the Schmidt era - which kicked off this time last year - which now sees the coach with eight wins from his 11 Tests.

"There's a lot of things to improve on and that's what we'll try to do," said O'Connell.

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