Rugby Union: Skinstad skins the Irish

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Ireland 13 South Africa 27

Try: Wood Tries: Erasmus, Skinstad

Con: Elwood Van der Westhuizen

Pens: Elwood 2 Cons: Montgomery 3 Pens: Montgomery 2

Half-time: 6-7 Attendance: 48,000

IN A couple of sensational minutes which opened the second half, Bobby Skinstad transformed this match with touches of breathtaking pace and skill. Prior to his phenomenal contribution South Africa had been on the back foot, successfully soaking up pressure. And then they unleashed Skinstad.

His contribution, more than any other, changed the complexion of an intense, at times, violent affair. A classic it was not but Skinstad's injection of genius after a torrid first half dominated by Ireland, will remain in the memory.

It was the foundation for the Springbok's 17th successive Test victory, equalling the record set by the All Blacks from 1965-70. South Africa, the World Champions, had labelled this safari, with typical bravado, the Grand Slam tour and they will accomplish their mission if they beat England at Twickenham next Saturday. Three down, one to go.

South Africa, against the run of play, led 7-6 at half-time, immediately after which the game exploded into life. After Percy Montgomery had kicked a penalty, the Springboks won a line-out inside their own half and Henry Honiball, a stand-off who plays like a back-row forward, made a semi-breach before feeding Skinstad in midfield.

Skinstad, a back-row forward who plays like a stand-off, burst through the Irish defence with astonishing pace and then swerved around the full- back Conor O'Shea before planting the ball beneath the posts.

A few minutes later South Africa drove the Irish off their own ball at a scrum, Skinstad claimed possession and again set off through the Irish midfield like a sprinter from the blocks. This time he did not make the line but found Honiball in support and the latter's inside pass to Joost van der Westhuizen enabled the scrum-half to score at the posts. Two stunning strikes in as many minutes suddenly elevated South Africa into a 24-6 lead and effectively it was game, set and match.

Ireland, of course, refused to see it that way and in the 49th minute belatedly scored their only try of the match when the dynamic Keith Wood eluded three tacklers to smash his way over from a ruck close to the Springbok's line.

There were 18 penalties in the first half, 11 of them to Ireland. Eric Elwood was successful with two goal attempts but missed three others. Ireland thoroughly deserved to lead at half-time but instead found themselves trailing by a point.

Elwood put Ireland ahead with a 30-yard penalty in the 18th minute but with the game being played almost exclusively in the South African half they deserved much more. The Irish couldn't finish what they had started; Andrew Ward knocked on just short of the line and then Malcolm O'Kelly threw a wretched pass with Wood and Justin Bishop unmarked to his right.

On a rare excursion into Irish territory, South Africa established a lead in the 31st minute which they never relinquished. Bishop, about 10 yards outside his own 22, should have safely dealt with a kick ahead but instead found himself in checkmate. The Springboks recycled the ball and Pieter Rossouw threw out a pass to nobody in particular. Johan Erasmus picked up the ball on the bounce, sold a dummy to the Irish midfield and then raced 35 yards to score near the posts. It was an extraordinary try and anything Erasmus could do, Skinstad could do better.

Montgomery's conversion put the tourists 7-3 ahead before Elwood kicked a second penalty. It was scant reward for their efforts and the luck of the Irish is becoming a sick joke.

After Skinstad's pyrotechnics, South Africa went further ahead with a penalty from Montgomery but still the Irish refused to lie down. Wood was warned for launching himself into a ruck knee-first and then the referee Clayton Thomas issued yellow cards to the Irish prop Reggie Corrigan, who had come on for Justin Fitzpatrick, and his opposite number Adrian Garvey. In the heat of the fray, purple hearts would have been more appropriate. Jonathan Bell was held up inches short of the Springbok's line before the exhausted Wood, who had spearheaded the Irish challenge, limped off two minutes from the end of another vainglorious Irish escapade.

Ireland: C O'Shea (London Irish); J Bishop (London Irish), J Bell (Dungannon), K Maggs (Bath), G Dempsey (Terenure College); E Elwood (Galwegians), C McGuinness (St Mary's College); J Fitzpatrick (Dungannon), K Woods (Harlequins), P Clohessy (Young Munster), P Johns (Saracens, capt); M O'Kelly (London Irish),D O'Cuinneagain (Sale), V Costello (St Mary's College), A Ward (Ballynahinch). Replacements: J Davidson (Castres) for O'Kelly, 55; R Corrigan (Lansdowne) for Fitzpatrick,55; R Nesdale (Newcastle) for Wood, 80.

South Africa: P Montgomery (Western Province); S Terblanche (Boland Cavaliers), A Snyman (Blue Bulls), C Stewart (Western Province), P Rossouw (Western Province); H Honiball (Natal Sharks), J van der Westhuizen (Blue Bulls); R Kempson (Natal Sharks), J Dalton (Golden Lions), A Garvey (Natal Sharks), K Otto (Blue Bulls), M Andrews (Natal Sharks), J Erasmus (Free State), G Teichmann (Natal Sharks, capt), B Skinstad (Western Province). Replacements: South Africa: N Drotske (Free State) for Dalton, 10; A Venter (Free State) for Andrews, 50; O Le Roux (Natal Sharks) for Kempson, 50

Referee: C Thomas (Wales).