Monday 28 May 2018

So near but still so far for Ireland after South African adventure

Brave Ireland come up short in series finale

A dejected Andrew Trimble after yesterday’s game in Port Elizabeth. Photo: Brendan Moran
A dejected Andrew Trimble after yesterday’s game in Port Elizabeth. Photo: Brendan Moran
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Disappointed Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has refused to blame his side's series decider defeat to South Africa on referee Glen Jackson despite a controversial first-half call in Port Elizabeth yesterday.

The New Zealand official opted to issue a yellow card to Springbok full-back Willie le Roux when he careered recklessly into an airborne Tiernan O'Halloran 11 minutes into Ireland's 19-13 loss as the hosts claimed the series 2-1. Having seen CJ Stander red-carded in the first Test for a dangerous challenge on Pat Lambie, Schmidt could have had a justifiable gripe but he chose to keep his powder dry.

"I don't make comments on those incidents, other people do," Schmidt said. "We're still disappointed with CJ's red card. But we use the official channels to comment, we don't comment publicly about referees' performances. They do an incredibly difficult job and by and large do it well."

Ireland played some excellent rugby throughout the final Test, showing an attacking intent not seen earlier in the series. Yet they couldn't finish their chances, with Luke Marshall and Paddy Jackson both guilty of poor passes at pivotal moments as the game slipped away from them.

They kept going until the end, but came up against an impressive Springbok defence that just wouldn't be breached in the final moments.

Schmidt was filled with regrets about his side's profligacy a week on from losing a 16-point lead in the second Test in Johannesburg.

"I'm massively disappointed," he said. "It's 12 years since we've been here and to grab the opportunity last week to have it in our hands and be pick-pocketed by the comeback and then put so much energy into a game after a 52-week season . . . Testament to fortitude, but when you don't get what you're looking for you're always going to be disappointed.

"We showed a bit of inexperience a few times. What might have happened is something those players will learn from. I'm not taking anything away from South Africa, but you sometimes don't feel like you get what you deserve for the effort.

"It's not a lost cause. Three six-point results (winning margins); two of them unfortunately didn't go our way.

"If you'd offered me one win and a couple of other close results like that before the tour, I probably would have taken it because there's a little bit of history there but at the same time when you get as close as we did, it's disappointing."

Captain Rory Best felt South Africa's stronger cutting edge proved decisive.

"It's been a great series but a really, really tough series," said Best. "It's exactly what we thought it would be. Nothing was ever given easily, we knew we had to defend really well. They're a top side; we came here to win a series, we've fallen short twice.

"Our boys have fought valiantly and we've really put everything in. Unfortunately in the last two Tests, the Springboks have just been a little bit more clinical."

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