Ireland 15 South Africa 10
Despite the euphoria over Irelands victory the game was hardly a classic and as a spectacle it reminded me more of two old and punch drunk heavyweights posturing and posing in the centre of the ring as they tried to reclaim their glory days.
Ireland landed enough scoring jabs to edge the game as the Bokkes, despite getting through with one haymaker, ran out of steam before they could inflict any lasting damage. In fact you could almost see the energy drain out of the South Africans legs as the mist came down and their penalty attempts fell short.
From then on it was all Ireland and Sexton capped an assured debut by landing all of Ireland’s scoring blows, but it still required the now renamed “Captain Courageous Brian O’Driscoll” to land the knock out punch with his head on, and bone crunching, tackle which prevented South Africa stealing it in the dying moments. Game over.
Now, how can you criticise Declan Kidney, unbeaten in 2009 and just voted the IRB Coach of the Year but there were still some worrying factors in this game.
The pack were one again completely destroyed at scrum time and on another day the penalties given away would have lost Ireland the game. No more stalling, it is now time to rebuild the front five as O’Connell no longer has the energy to carry the rest. Australia have raised the bar by showing rugby playing front rows can be taught how to scrumage so Ireland should look at this revamp with perhaps a little less trepidation.
From an Ulster point of view it was another disappointing afternoon with both Irish representatives limping off before the second half started. Worrying indeed with the Heineken double header against Stade coming up but with Faloon and Henry on form, Pollock returning and Houra getting some game time perhaps Ferris’s injury may be the lesser worry.
BJ Botha’s form for the Bokkes, particularly when he teamed up with van der Linde for one glorious all destroying scrum, may hasten his return to Durban. Let’s hope the Irish coaches use the time remaining to study his technique before he departs.
My man of the match goes to Rob Kearney who was class personified in everything he did.
As always, excellent match pictures here from rugbypicture.co.uk