Wednesday 22 November 2017

Joe Schmidt has huge task in rousing troops after Boks four-try blitz denies Ireland series win

Disappointed Ireland players after the second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg. Photo: Brendan Moran
Disappointed Ireland players after the second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg. Photo: Brendan Moran
Elton Jantjies of South Africa kicks the conversion of the last try. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Conor Murray of Ireland scores his side's second try despite the tackle of Lood de Jager. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jared Payne of Ireland is tackled by Damian de Allende, left, and Lionel Mapoe of South Africa during the Castle Lager Incoming Series 2nd Test game between South Africa and Ireland at the Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
South Africa's Damian de Allende (L) tackles Ireland's Andrew Trimble
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Now Ireland know why South Africa is rated alongside New Zealand as rugby's toughest touring venue. For almost an hour, Joe Schmidt's side looked like they would follow England's lead and clinch a three-Test series in two games as they reduced Ellis Park to an insubordination as the Johannesburg fans turned on their team at half-time.

South Africa 32 Ireland 26

At 19-3 up, Ireland were fully in control but it was hard to reconcile that with a second-half power-surge from the World Cup semi-finalists who ripped up Andy Farrell's defence to score four tries in a rampant closing half-hour.

It was awesome stuff and this Irish team, heralded for their efforts with 14 men at Newlands last week, simply couldn't live with the pace.

This was a Rugby Championship team playing Rugby Championship level and the Six Nations side looked like they'd never seen anything like it.

Joe Schmidt will be disappointed by the way his team reacted to the onslaught as the good habits that had earned them their lead went out the window, their tackles became feeble and their decisions increasingly erratic.

But they must also doff their caps to the 'Boks who were outstanding in that second-half. There was no doubt in the home side's mind as they appeared to find their best team when their replacements came on and ran Ireland ragged.

Rousing the troops for game three in Port Elizabeth looks like a mammoth task for Schmidt.

"Players are certainly disappointed," the New Zealander said. "They're fairly tired in that changing room. Whenever you get the win and get the result, it's always a lot easier to bounce back even it's a physically tiring match.

"It'll take us a couple of days probably mentally to get over the anguish of surrendering the lead we had, and at the same time, trying to work our way back to being fit enough to train fully and build towards next weekend's Test match."

We expected a storm from the Springboks and they came out strong and led through Elton Jantjes after Tadhg Furlong offended at the first scrum.

Yet, Ireland weathered the backlash and grew into the game as they forced South African attackers into errors and Paddy Jackson picked off 12 points from the kicking tee to establish a strong lead.

The home side were becoming increasingly frustrated as Rhys Ruddock made some big hits and Quinn Roux, Jackson and Robbie Henshaw all stripped the ball from opposition carriers in key positions.

The famous Ellis Park atmosphere was becoming ever-more muted and they were stunned into silence when Devin Toner crossed for Ireland's first try after Andrew Trimble had force Lwazi Mvovo into an error under the high ball, Jared Payne surged forward and Ruddock cleverly off-loaded to the second-row who wasn't going to be stopped from close range.

Jackson converted, but missed two tough kicks either side of half-time.

At the time, they hardly seemed to matter such was Ireland's control, but Springbok coach Allister Coetzee responded to the loud boos at the half-time whistle by bringing on local heroes Ruan Combrinck and Warren Whiteley and they helped turn the tide in the home side's favour.

It all began with a loose box-kick from Conor Murray, which invited the hosts to counter and, while Damian 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 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 to re-assert Irish control, 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.

Scorers - South Africa: Combrinck, Whiteley, Du Toit, De Allende tries; Jantjies 2 pens & 3 cons. Ireland: Toner, Heaslip tries; Jackson 4 pens, 2 cons.
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 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)

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