Ireland claim famous victory

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Published: Saturday 8th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Rhys Ruddock and Tommy Bowe scored tries to guide stubborn Ireland to their first victory over South Africa in five years at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

Joe Schmidt’s side rebuffed their bullish visitors to triumph 29-15 and register their fifth consecutive win, Ireland’s best run since 2009.

Leinster’s 23-year-old flanker Ruddock, son of former Wales star Mike, seized his first Test try after replacing the ill Chris Henry just hours before kick-off.

Marcell Coetzee crossed from a second-half Springboks maul before JP Pietersen claimed a late consolation, but Bowe’s score and Johnny Sexton’s 16 points saw Ireland to a fully-merited victory.

Captain Paul O’Connell will lead the charge to beef Ireland up in time for next year’s World Cup, as Schmidt demands ever-increasing physicality.

This was a confrontation against some of the very competitors that O’Connell wants to see evolve among the Irish, with Eben Etzebeth and Victor Matfield as menacing as ever.

But sometimes brain beats brawn, and Ireland’s cerebral boss Schmidt had clearly racked his mind to devise a host of ploys to diffuse South Africa’s power game.

So despite a dominant scrum and a plethora of promising set-piece situations in Ireland’s 22, the Springboks continually failed to out-think their hosts.

Tighthead Mike Ross had spent the last two weeks scrambling to beat a groin problem in time to offset Ireland’s front-row injury crisis.

The 33-year-old Leinster prop returned to ease the absence of Cian Healy, Marty Moore and Nathan White.

Ross battled manfully throughout, somehow staving off South Africa’s superior scrum despite his evident lack of match fitness.

Canny defending and a host of Springbok errors conspired to frustrate the visitors and help Ireland defend their whitewash in an absorbing but low-scoring first half.

Ireland led 6-3 at the break, Sexton trumping Handre Pollard’s goal-kicking two penalties to one.

The hosts indicated their refusal to bow to Springbok power by refusing to bind on a maul, flummoxing Heyneke Meyer’s forward pack in an early statement of intent.

After Sexton had opened the night’s scoring Willie le Roux, Jan Serfontein and Francois Hougaard all produced errors in Ireland’s 22 to waste gilt-edged Springbok openings.

Pollard then drifted a long-range penalty effort wide, before Le Roux got away with a clear knock-on.

Sexton’s second penalty only enticed South Africa back onto the attack, with Devin Toner sneaking in to disrupt another maul.

South Africa continually opted for penalty lineouts rather than goal, a tactic that ultimately backfired as Ireland somehow held firm.

Scrum-half Hougaard’s cheap knock at the tail of a maul summed up his side’s first-half profligacy, with Pollard forced to settle for a paltry three-point return for the half.

Ireland opened the second half in style, Ruddock claiming his first Test try from a well-worked lineout maul peel , with Sexton’s conversion creating a 10-point lead.

When Jack McGrath was penalised for popping up at the scrum, South Africa opted for the lineout.

This time there was no stopping the maul, with flanker Coetzee barrelling home.

Sexton’s third penalty of the night proved only brief respite amid the Springbok onslaught, but a huge double hit from Peter O’Mahony and O’Connell launched the Dublin crowd into full voice.

Replacement hooker Adriaan Strauss was sin-binned for taking out the airborne Rob Kearney, allowing Ireland to clear their lines.

Sexton’s rapier punt into the corner then piled the pressure on South Africa, with number eight Duane Vermeulen forced to throw in.

Ireland stole possession and pounded through the phases, eventually forcing a penalty.

Sexton slotted the goal to push Ireland nine points ahead with 10 minutes to play.

And then Ireland wrapped up a famous victory, wing Bowe latching onto Conor Murray’s pinpoint chip to claim the home side’s second try of the night.

Sexton’s smart break cut broke the first wave of Springbok resistance, allowing British and Irish Lions half-back Murray to tee up Bowe for the finish.

Schmidt’s raft of substitutions signalled a happy Ireland camp, though Jared Payne hobbled off in clear discomfort.

Replacement Ian Madigan landed a penalty of his own, before JP Pietersen salvaged some pride with a late South Africa try.

Published: Saturday 8th November 2014 by The News Editor

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