Joe Schmidt’s charges are off to a flyer in the Autumn Internationals after humbling the Springboks.
Knowing they couldn’t take on the South Africans in an arm-wrestle, Ireland played a very containing game in the first half dominating possession. This dominance was not entirely reflected on the scoreboard but thanks to a couple of Johnny Sexton penalties Ireland held a narrow 6-3 lead at the interval.
Having contained the much fancied Springboks in the first half Ireland made a dream start to the second half as Rhys Ruddock, a late replacement for Chris Henry, slid in for the games opening try within two minutes. After Johnny Sexton nonchalantly slotted over the extras from the corner it became a two-possession game 13-3.
After imposing their physicality South Africa eventually managed to breach the Irish defense for their opening try after 57 minutes, when Marcell Coetzee applied the finishing touches to an attacking maul.
South Africa were clearly the dominant side at this stage as Ireland’s tackle count started to grow, however after some stout defending Johnny Sexton yet again punished a South African infringement at the breakdown with an excellent kick.
Just three minutes later after clashing with Rob Kearney in the air, replacement South African hooker Adriaan Strauss was sin binned by referee Romain Poite who had consulted his TMO, a major turning point in the game.
With ten minutes to go Ireland started to turn the screw as the new centre partnership of Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne showed their potential as they threatened to break through for a try. However cynical play by the South Africans in the ruck resulted in another penalty which was duly slotted over by Johnny Sexton making it yet again a two-possession game 19-10.
Just two minutes later Ireland were again knocking on the door of the South African 22, After a few near misses earlier in the game Connor Murray caught out South Africa’s flat defense as he sent Tommy Bowe clear with a grubber kick for a try in the corner. In his last act before making way for Ian Madigan Johnny Sexton slotted over the extras in what was a flawless kicking display and ultimately man of the match performance.
Madigan also got his name on the score sheet with a cracking penalty from 45 meters before some slack Irish defending allowed Willie La Roux to send JP Pietersen clear for a consolation try and final score 29-15, but no one other than perfectionist Joe Schmidt really minded. Unfortunately it also meant Ireland fell just four points short of their largest ever margin of victory over the Springboks.