Ireland failed in their bid to win their first test series in South Africa, going down 19 – 13 in the final decider in Port Elizabeth on Saturday afternoon.
It was a gilt edge chance for Ireland, against a poor South Africa, but unfortunately the hosts scrum got on top, sapping the Irish resolve, and, despite an early try from Luke Marshall and a conversion and two penalties from Paddy Jackson, Ireland ran out of steam as the game progressed.
Luke Marshall was involved in both of the scores in the first quarter, giving away an early penalty for Jantjies to give the hosts a 3 – 0 lead. However, the young Ulster man made amends ten minutes later to claim a try close to the posts after slicing through the South African defence. Paddy Jackson added the conversion to give Ireland a 3 – 7 lead.
By that point South Africa’s Willie Le Roux had received a yellow card for an outrageous challenge on Tiernan O’Halloran which really should have been a red. The tone of the game was set in this period with the soft refereeing of the home side and their actual dominance of the scrum, both of which gave a poor South African side a distinct advantage the longer the game progressed.
Jackson missed a chance to extend Ireland’s lead on the 21st minute but found the target shortly after with his successful penalty pushing Ireland’s lead to seven points.
Unfortunately South Africa were given some leeway at the break down and their scrum dominance continued to grow throughout the second quarter, Jantjies knocking over his second penalty following a ferocious set piece. Ireland were looking more inventive but were guilty of playing too much rugby in their own half.
While Ireland led the South African’s looked very nervous, and a great strip by Henderson, after South Africa took a quick penalty close to the Irish line, should have ended up with Earls scoring after Marshall took the ball on deep into the South African half. Unfortunately Marshall butchered his final pass and the chance went begging.
It turned into a double whammy as the Boks marched straight back up the field to score a converted try and take a 13 – 10 lead into the break, a precision chip by Jantjies finding Pieterson out wide for an unopposed run in.
The Bok scrum continued to dominate and the home side were happy to sit behind it and pick up the points. Ireland tried to play but their handling was woeful, each knock on inflicting more damage on the battered front five.
However the Irish defence was sound and the wrecking ball, Ruan Combrinck, that ran amok in the last game was fairly anonymous throughout. He did however manage to knock over long range penalty to extend the hosts lead to 16 – 10 as the game went into the final quarter.
Ireland looked completely beaten in the next ten minutes as they caused more damage to themselves with poor communication and running into each other. Their fecklessness was punished by Jantjies, his third penalty pushing the lead to 19 – 10.
Jackson responded a minute later to take the score to 13 – 19 and Ireland showed remarkable fortitude to regroup, as the subs came on, pushing themselves for one big effort at the end of a long season.
Nerves kicked in as the clock ticked down and Ireland genuinely had a chance to steal this one. They strung together a remarkable 21 phases but gave away a soft penalty deep in the South African half.
There was still time for another blarge but they just couldn’t find a way through the Bok’s resolute defence, the game ending without further score.
Final Score: South Africa 19 – 13 Ireland.
Ireland. Tiernan O’Halloran, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding, Keith Earls, Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray, Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Iain Henderson, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Jordi Murphy, Jamie Heaslip. Replacments: Sean Cronin, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Furlong, Ultan Dillane, Rhys Ruddock, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Matt Healy.
Joe Schmid has said he would decide whether to stay until the 2019 Rugby World Cup after the completion of this tour. If he does stay he’s going to need to find a scrum coach from somewhere.