Ire­land make it look al­most too easy as Spring­boks are sti­fled

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Rugby Autumn Internationals -

the only points not taken were Johnny Sex­ton’s touch­line con­ver­sion to An­drew Con­way’s try, and even that hit the post.

Pos­si­bly the most pleas­ing as­pect of the game was the man­ner in which Bundee Aki, Ja­cob Stock­dale and Con­way all pro­vided such en­ergy and ef­fec­tive­ness, and, in ad­di­tion, the im­pact from an Ir­ish bench fea­tur­ing an­other young home debu­tant in James Ryan and a full debu­tant in Darren Sweet­nam. Ev­ery re­place­ment made pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions.

There were also tries for Rhys Rud­dock, who just seems tai­lor-made for com­pet­ing against the Boks, and Rob Her­ring. Even Joey Car­bery con­trib­uted an im­pres­sive five-minute cameo, com­plete with touch­line con­ver­sion.

Ex­pe­ri­enced

Be­tween them Aki, Con­way, Stock­dale, Her­ring, James Ryan, Car­bery and Sweet­nam had only a dozen caps go­ing into this game, al­though, as Joe Sch­midt noted af­ter­wards, the spine of the team was quite ex­pe­ri­enced, when you think of Rory Best, Devin Toner and an all-Lions back­row and half-backs, out­side cen­tre and full­back.

There were so many high-cal­i­bre per­for­mances it was hard to sin­gle them out, and it was strik­ing how many play­ers, such as CJ Stander, pro­duced their best per­for­mances of the sea­son to date. As ex­pected, Conor Mur­ray and Sex­ton bossed the show, with the lat­ter giv­ing the full reper­toire, de­fend­ing stoutly as he does and again pro­vid­ing a goal-kick­ing mas­ter­class.

The Boks have now suf­fered record de­feats to New Zealand and Ire­land ei­ther side of com­ing within a point of the All Blacks. The lat­ter now looks like more of a one-off. They brought a de­cent li­ne­out, and re­tained pos­ses­sion rea­son­ably well, and that was about it.

Credit has to be given to Ire­land for sti­fling the Spring­boks’ run­ning game, limited and largely pre­dictable though it was, and for stop­ping South Africa’s maul, which has been so po­tent in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship. On what was also a good day for the Ir­ish scrum and li­ne­out as well, the Boks suf­fered the in­dig­nity of be­ing mauled over their own line for Ire­land’s third try.

Ire­land were con­tent to let South Africa go through the phases, push­ing up with re­lent­lessly co­he­sive and fast line speed, chop­ping down the ball car­rier on the gain line or even be­hind it, and then slow­ing down the re­cy­cle or forc­ing turnovers through the likes of Best, Stander, Seán O’Brien, Peter O’Ma­hony and Rud­dock.

Cough it up

And that was only if the Boks didn’t cough it up or kick it away. Some of their ba­sic han­dling er­rors, de­ci­sion-mak­ing and ex­e­cu­tion, es­pe­cially in their back play, sim­ply did not meet the stan­dards of a one-time su­per­power of the game. The man­ner Damian de Al­lende kicked away a three-on-one over­lap in the first half – and badly at that – summed it up, as did El­ton Jan­tjies and Siya Kolisi pass­ing into touch be­yond the hap­less Court­nall Skosan.

The Boks’ left-winger also had a tor­rid time un­der Mur­ray’s aerial bom­bard­ment and Con­way’s chas­ing. Even so, the lack of cover, or­gan­i­sa­tion or work-rate around Skosan when he failed to hold Mur­ray’s up-and-un­der and Con­way snaf­fled the ball on the first bounce to score touched from 30 me­tres was hardly cred­i­ble.

Limited

Fur­ther­more, the Boks’ limited kick­ing game was com­pounded by an al­most non-ex­is­tent chase. Car­bery made more of an im­pres­sion in five min­utes than Jan­tjies did in al­most an hour. Ire­land also ruled the air, where Rob Kear­ney, in tan­dem with his wings, was as com­mand­ing as ever.

There was even scant ev­i­dence of the Boks’ famed phys­i­cal­ity, al­low­ing for one thump­ing hit by Fran­cois Louw on the all-ac­tion O’Brien. But that had been pre­ceded mo­ments ear­lier by the sight of Iain Hen­der­son bar­relling through Eben Etze­beth, of all peo­ple.

That said, Ire­land’s work in the con­tact zone showed, as is usu­ally the case, how well pre­pared they were. The clear­ing out of the first two play­ers af­ter the tack­led car­rier was in­vari­ably ruth­lessly ef­fi­cient – re­tain­ing the ball in 71 out of 73 rucks (97 per cent).

Ire­land’s An­drew Con­way scores a try as South Africa’s An­dries Coet­zee closes in on him at the Aviva Sta­dium, Dublin, on Satur­day.

En­ter­ing the last 10 min­utes, the Boks were still go­ing through their moves when Ja­cob Stock­dale emp­tied Dil­lyn Leyds, and the su­perb set-piece move which fol­lowed a triple Ir­ish sub­sti­tu­tion was be­yond South Africa’s re­mit – Dave Kil­coyne, Seán O’Brien and Kieran Marmion shift­ing on off-the-top ball from Devin Toner to Sex­ton, as Aki and Rob­bie Hen­shaw ran de­coy lines, to cre­ate the hole for Stock­dale from Sex­ton’s in­side pass. Af­ter car­ries from Con­way and Stander, Rud­dock side-stepped Franco Mostert to plough over.

Af­ter the maul­ing try, Ire­land fin­ished with a flour­ish, tran­si­tion­ing from de­fence into at­tack when Stock­dale ran hard off a spillage by Jesse Kriel. O’Brien did his Tul­low Tank thing, and when Sweet­nam did well to re­cover Car­bery’s cross­kick, Her­ring cov­ered a huge amount of ground to se­cure the re­cy­cle be­fore James Ryan trucked it up. Ire­land then had a per­fect at­tack­ing shape as Kil­coyne pulled the ball back for Car­bery, and good skip passes by Rob­bie Hen­shaw and Con­way en­abled Stock­dale to fin­ish in the cor­ner.

Talk about send­ing a crowd home happy.

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