Saturday 8 November 2014 23:34, UK
Ireland claimed their first win over South Africa in five years with an impressive 29-15 triumph at the Aviva Stadium.
Rhys Ruddock, drafted into the team at late notice when Chris Henry was ruled out just before kick-off, and Tommy Bowe both crossed for tries, while the ever-reliable Jonathan Sexton kicked 16 points, to help the reigning Six Nations champions comfortably come out on top in Dublin.
The Springboks - who had arrived in Europe off the back of a home victory over New Zealand - trailed 13-3 at one stage in the second half but cut the deficit to three when Marcell Coetzee's close-range try was successfully converted.
However, the sin-binning of replacement Adriaan Strauss scuppered their hopes of a comeback, with Ireland able to pull so far clear that a late score by JP Pietersen was no more than a consolation effort for the visitors.
The manner of the victory for Ireland was even more impressive considering the number of players missing from their squad through illness or injury, as well as the absence of the now-retired Brian O’Driscoll from their midfield.
Sexton’s boot put them into a 6-3 half-time advantage, though South Africa only had themselves to blame for being behind after a plethora of handling errors meant all they had to show for their long periods of dominance was a solitary penalty from Handre Pollard.
The fly-half, who played such a starring role as his side ended the All Blacks’ 22-match unbeaten run in Johannesburg last month, missed his first attempt at the posts before finally putting the tourists on the board in the 38th minute.
Ireland made them pay for their profligacy early in the second half when Ruddock – promoted from the bench due to a virus striking down Henry – finished off a catch-and-drive from a lineout as South Africa's pack rather parted like the Red Sea to allow the flanker through for his first international five-pointer.
Sexton’s conversion opened up a double-digit cushion for the Irish, though it also inspired an impressive response from opponents currently ranked second in the world.
They too rumbled over for a close-range try, flanker Coetzee the man to benefit from the help of his pack as Joe Schmidt’s side finally succumbed under the pressure. Pollard added the extras, and at that stage it seemed the ‘Boks were the ones with momentum in their favour.
Yet Ireland, only beaten in 2014 so far by England, held their nerve. A third Sexton penalty was quickly followed by Strauss being yellow carded for tackling the excellent Rob Kearney whilst the full-back was still in the air.
Another Sexton penalty makes it a two-score lead after South Africa's set-piece went wrong on their own line, then Bowe put the result beyond doubt when Conor Murray’s intelligent chip into space towards the right touchline bounced kindly into the winger’s path.
Fly-half Sexton knocked over the conversion before making way for Ian Madigan, who hammered home a long-range penalty to add further salt in the ‘Boks’ wounds. Pietersen rounded out the scoring in the closing seconds, but Heyneke Meyer has plenty to ponder ahead of a showdown with England at Twickenham next Saturday.