Wednesday 22 November 2017

Ruddock eyes England scalp as U-20s stun Springboks

Jean Smidt

BRING on England -- that was the message from Mike Ruddock's bravehearts after his Ireland U-20 team stunned hosts South Africa at the Junior Rugby World Cup.

Despite playing the game in front of a partisan home crowd and without the services of Ulster's star out-half Paddy Jackson, Ireland turned in a performance of courage and commitment to record a shock 23-19 win over the Springboks.

Led by talismanic captain Niall Scannell, Ruddock's charges took the game to the South Africans from the outset and refused to be overpowered by the physicality of their opponents.

Another key component was the superb performance of out-half JJ Hanrahan, whose assured kicking and composure on the ball ensured Jackson's absence was not felt.

The Castleisland man kicked a total of 13 points to earn the Man of the Match award, though Scannell stressed afterwards that everyone who took the pitch deserved credit.

"We worked very hard and believed in it. The South Africans put a lot of pressure on us, but we came out all right," said the Irish captain. "It was a very physical game. Our focus was on the tackle and to aim at those knees and ankles. Brilliant commitment by the team." The junior Springboks threw everything forward in the dying moments, but despite winning a put-in near the Irish try-line, they were unable to break down the spirited Irish resistance.

Ireland next face England -- 64-5 conquerors of Italy earlier in the day -- at Stellenbosch on Friday.

Irish Independent

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