Sublime Ireland stun South Africa’s Springboks

Jan Serfontein looks to break through Ireland's defence

Jonathan Sexton kicked 16 points as an under strength Ireland stunned South Africa 29-15 at Lansdowne Road on Saturday to give the Irish their fifth successive victory.

Both sides scored two tries apiece — Irish flanker Rhys Ruddock a late starter
owing to Chris Henry being struck down by a virus scoring his first try for
his country days short of his 24th birthday .

But the under-strength Irish played above themselves to record their first
win under Joe Schmidt over a southern hemisphere heavyweight.

“It’s a massive win against one of the big southern hemisphere teams,
to get that scalp today is brilliant,” said Irish captain Paul O’Connell.

For the Springboks it was their first defeat to a northern hemisphere side
since Scotland beat them four years ago and a wake up call only weeks after
they ended world champions New Zealand’s 22 match winning run.

Early Irish pressure paid off when Sexton slotted over a penalty after the
South Africans were penalised for pulling the scrum down.

The Springboks, though, were beginning to threaten regularly and a scintillating
run by fullback Willie Le Roux tore through the heart of the Irish defence but
again the hosts escaped as they were awarded a penalty.

In an enthralling encounter Ireland also produced some fine running rugby of
their own with fullback Rob Kearney breaking through the visitors defence and
pressured the ‘Boks into conceding a penalty.

Sexton made no mistake to make it 6-0 with a quarter of an hour remaining of
the first-half.

The Springboks deciding that they had the Irish scrum under the cosh in the
set pieces twice decided to kick for the scorner than at goal but the hosts
held firm and an infraction by Bismarck du Plessis allowed Sexton to clear.

Pollard finally gave the ‘Boks something to show for their pressure during
the opening period with a penalty in front of the posts two minutes from the

However, it was the Irish who struck first in the second-half as Devan Toner
won a lineout a few yards out from the line and Ruddock was on hand to go over
on the blindside — Sexton converted brilliantly from wide out on the left for

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer rang the changes bringing on experienced campaigners
flanker Schalk Burger, winger JP Pietersen as well as hooker Adriaan Strauss
— whose cousin Richardt Strauss was on the Irish bench — in the first 10 minutes
of the second-half desperately trying to get some momentum going.

Finally, though, South Africa’s relentless pressure told as they won a lineout
having opted again to go for the corner, after being awarded a penalty, veteran
Victor Matfield won the lineout and Marcell Coetzee was on hand to touch down
— Pollard converted for 13-10.

Sexton, who had gone down at one point and seemed to be feeling his calf, put
over a penalty to give Ireland a 16-10 lead as the game entered the final 20

The hosts were given a further boost when the visitors were reduced to 14 men
when Adriaan Strauss was sin-binned with 14 minutes remaining for taking out
Kearney in the air.

The Irish tails were in the air and forced a turnover close to the visitors
line which ended with them being awarded a penalty and unlike last year when
Sexton missed a penalty against the All Blacks from the same distance this time
he struck it cleanly to make it 19-10.

Things were to get immeasurably better for the hosts minutes later as Sexton
broke through the middle – Conor Murray chipped the resulting ball over the
South African defence and Bowe was on hand to go over for his 27th try for his

The metronomic Sexton converted from the touchline for 26-10 and the Fields
of Athenry resonated round the stadium.

The Irish add

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