Friday 17 November 2017

Series win the next target as Toner sets tone in courageous display

South Africa 20 Ireland 26

Jordi Murphy takes on Damian de Allende, left, and Eben Etzebeth. Photo:Sportsfile
Jordi Murphy takes on Damian de Allende, left, and Eben Etzebeth. Photo:Sportsfile
Conor Murray stretches to score Ireland’s second try against South Africa despite the tackle of Lood de Jager. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Keith Earls and Conor Murray attempt to block a conversion by Elton Jantjies. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Beating the Springboks on home soil for the first time was always going to require something special from this patched-up Ireland team, but to do it with 14 men for 58 minutes needed a performance of remarkable courage and no little endeavour.

This win will go down as one of this country's greatest victories given the historical context and the adversity they faced after CJ Stander was sent to the stands following a clumsy collision with Pat Lambie that saw the outhalf removed on a stretcher. Joe Schmidt described the decision as "very, very harsh" and will appeal any suspension, but he could be hugely proud of how his players responded; particularly when Robbie Henshaw was sent to the sin-bin as South Africa took the lead towards the end of the first half.

In 2010, Jamie Heaslip saw red against New Zealand and Ireland folded, but here they stood tall and repelled the Boks.

When Henshaw returned, they took the game to their hosts and re-took the lead through Conor Murray's try. They never relinquished it, with Paddy Jackson staying calm under pressure, Jared Payne always adventurous and the pack, led by a brilliant Rory Best, abrasive in the face of huge physicality from the home team.

Conor Murray kicks through as he is tackled by Duane Vermeulen. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Conor Murray kicks through as he is tackled by Duane Vermeulen. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Now, their attention turns to winning a series in Johannesburg next week when they'll be restored to a full complement, but will face a stung South Africa who can only improve on their disjointed display.

They started sluggishly and got on the wrong side of referee Mathieu Raynal early on, allowing Ireland take control.

They led through Payne's ninth-minute try, with the full-back running on to the excellent Luke Marshall's chip to touch down. It turned out to be a double-whammy, with Lood de Jager sent to the sin-bin as Jackson lined up the conversion for pulling down an earlier maul.

Lambie pulled back a penalty with his second attempt, but Jackson cancelled that out and things appeared to be going nicely until disaster struck.

As Lambie released an up-and-under, Stander launched himself into the air and, as he came down, his hip connected with his former under-20 team-mate's head.

French referee Mathieu Raynal consulted with his television match official Jim Yuille and concluded that the Munster skipper's action had been dangerous and sent him off. It was certainly reckless and left Lambie needing a stretcher, but the red card appeared to be harsh.

Joe Schmidt appears elated after the final whistle. Photo: Sportsfile
Joe Schmidt appears elated after the final whistle. Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland faced a gruelling 58 minutes with 14 men, and replacement outhalf Elton Jantjes narrowed the gap with his first kick as the onslaught began and De Jager returned. It got worse. With the visiting scrum in trouble and the hosts beginning to find joy from their maul, Jantjes delayed his pass beautifully to put Lwazi Mvovo over. Henshaw levelled the Lions fly-half after he'd released the ball and he was shown a yellow card as Jantjes dusted himself off to convert the try.

Somehow, Ireland drew level as Jackson cleverly dropped a goal and the 13 men managed to get to the dressing-room with parity on the scoreboard, despite wave after wave of white jerseys attacking, with Murray, Henderson and Jackson making big defensive plays.

With Henshaw restored, Ireland struck for their second try to the sound of stunned silence at Newlands after half-time.

Brilliant hands from Payne released Trimble down the right, Willie le Roux slapped down his pass but Rory Best picked it up well and surged forward. Murray picked it up, slipped De Jager's tackle and scored and when Jackson converted Ireland were somehow in front by seven.

The hosts were growing frustrated at their inability to make their numerical advantage count and, while second-rows Eben Etzebeth and De Jager made hard yards, Best managed to disrupt and Jackson could clear. Next time they came forward, the Ireland captain ripped the ball from De Jager's grasp.

Jared Payne
Jared Payne

Allister Coetzee turned to his bench as his side looked to overpower the Irish, but Lionel Mapoe knocked on and again Ireland could clear. Jackson even had a chance to kick his side further in front when Jamie Heaslip, Henderson and Devin Toner held Warren Whitely up in the tackle, the scrum forced a penalty but his long-range effort hit the post.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Ireland were applying pressure and, when Le Roux knocked Henshaw's grubber into touch, they had another opportunity with a five-metre lineout - but there was obstruction in the maul set-up and the chance went.

Still, Jackson was able to stretch the lead to 10 points with a difficult penalty after Frans Malherbe went off his feet and, with 12 minutes remaining, Ireland dared to dream of history. They soon woke up. The out-half's attempted pass to Jack McGrath was picked off by Peter Steph du Toit and the replacement second-row raced under the posts. Jantjes converted and the gap was back to three.

Jackson missed a drop-goal attempt to extend the lead, but he nailed another tough kick after Malherbe yet again went off his feet at the breakdown.

That gave Ireland breathing space, but they still had to stand tall as the Springboks threw everything at them in search of a try. JP Pietersen looked like he might be in, but a combination of Payne, Jackson and Henshaw forced him over the line. History was theirs.

Scorers - South Africa: Mvovo, du Toit try each; Jantjies pen, 2 cons, Lambie pen Ireland: Payne, Murray try each; Jackson 3 pens, 2 cons, dp gl
South Africa: W le Roux; JP Pietersen, L Mapoe, D De Allende, L Mvovo; P Lambie (E Jantjies 23), F de Klerk; T Mtawariria (T Nkayane 59), A Strauss, F Malherbe (J Redelinghuys 78); E Etzebeth, L de Jager (PS du Toit 56); F Louw (W Whitely 56), S Kolisi, D Vermeulen.
Ireland: J Payne; A Trimble, R Henshaw, L Marshall, K Earls (C Gilroy 77); P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt) (S Cronin 70), M Ross (T Furlong 59); I Henderson (U Dillane 70), D Toner; CJ Stander, J Murphy (R Ruddock 74), J Heaslip.
Referee: M Raynal (France)

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