Ireland 32 South Africa 15: Marauding Irish dazzle Springboks

Autumn Tests: Pace of Trimble and O'Driscoll's magic combine to run roughshod over greenhorn visitors
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The Independent Online

Ireland blew South Africa off the pitch with a stupendous first-half display of running rugby. It was scintillating stuff. The experienced home side were able to counter pretty much anything and everything that the rookie Springbok team could throw at them.

Sadly, it looked as if the hosts had all but run out of puff and there were nowhere near as many exciting breaks after the interval. But by then the job had been completed and on this showing, Ireland are a storm force in world rugby.

The blustery conditions dictated a degree of prudence in the kicking game and that suited Ireland, whose pack took charge at set-piece and line-out and provided their exciting backs with a deluge of possession. It should have been an even greater slaughter. Only desperate defending and errors in the heat of the moment prevented more tries.

Against all expectations, Ireland beat South Africa here two years ago. This time they started as favourites, but within seconds found themselves under pressure and had to weather some eager, early Springbok forays. While the home defences prevented a try, they could not quite keep out the Boks. The opening score, a penalty in the fourth minute, stunned the home support in the 41,000 crowd, although not the objects of their adoration.

Ireland merely regrouped, pressed quickly and efficiently upfield and from a scrum Denis Leamy broke, set up a ruck and the ball travelled out to Ronan O'Gara who found the left wing Andrew Trimble powering up off his right shoulder. The Ulsterman stormed through the cover and his try was converted.

Ireland played in white in deference to South Africa's desire to mark the centenary of this fixture by wearing bottle green jerseys similar to their original shirts, with no sponsors' logos.

Both sides looked prepared to run the ball, although the gusting wind rendered the catching of any high balls a lottery. There was a hint of excessive anxiety in the home ranks when Ireland twice lost position, first through a crooked throw then with a needless penalty for holding on. South Africa could not make great strides upfield and the Irish flowed over the halfway line. Under the pressure, the visitors cracked and gave away a penalty which O'Gara converted.

Then came a long string of phases with Ireland pressing up all the time. Trimble broke, the ball was recycled, recycled again, then it was worked out to David Wallace wide on the right. The open-side flanker hit overdrive and powered around the despairing defenders. Although the conversion was missed, Ireland had taken command of affairs. Two minutes later, they were pushing linewards again but the right wing Shane Horgan was bundled into touch a metre short.

There was a similar fate awaiting Trimble as Brian O'Driscoll put him away down the left after Ireland had seen off more pressure. The hosts worked their way to the centre of the pitch and the prop Marcus Horan scrabbled for the ball at a ruck and managed to touch down. This time O'Gara converted and then went close with a 50-metre penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Ireland attacked incessantly, and were prepared to run at their opponents from anywhere. The greenness of the South Africans saw them unable to take advantage of Irish errors until midway through the second half.

Suddenly they broke upfield and a superb off-load in the tackle by the blind-side Danie Rossouw found the debutant left-winger Francois Steyn pounding up the left. He made no mistake about his first international score, which went unconverted.

There were still some magical touches from Ireland, notably from their conjuror O'Driscoll. His nonchalant one-handed pass under pressure which sent Horgan over for Ireland's fourth try was simply stunning.

That had followed an equally brilliant score by South Africa. Bryan Habana was playing at outside-centre instead of his normal wing position, and his searing pace and cool finish after a 60-metre arcing run brought a rousing cheer of appreciation from all sides.

Ireland: G Dempsey; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy (all Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); R O'Gara, P Stringer; M Horan (all Munster), R Best (Ulster), J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (all Munster), N Best (Ulster), D Wallace, D Leamy (both Munster). Replacements: F Sheahan (Munster) for R Best, 79; B Young (Ulster) for Horan, 67; M O'Kelly (Leinster) for O'Connell, 79; S Easterby (Llanelli Scarlets) for N Best, 61; I Boss (Ulster) for Stringer, 75; P Wallace (Ulster) for O'Gara, 79; G Murphy (Leicester) for Trimble, 67.

South Africa: B Fortuin (Free State); J Pretorius (Lions), B Habana (Blue Bulls), J de Villiers (Western Province), F Steyn (Natal Sharks); A Pretorius, R Januarie; L Sephaka (all Lions), J Smith (Sharks, capt), CJ van der Linde (Free State), J Ackermann, A van den Berg (both Sharks), D Rossouw (Bulls), J Smith (Free State), P Spies (Bulls). Replacements: BJ Botha (Natal Sharks) for Sephaka, h-t; J Muller (Natal Sharks) for Ackerman, 14; J Cronje (Lions) for Rossouw, 67; R Pienaar (Natal Sharks) for Januarie, 4-9; W Olivier (Blue Bulls) for J Pretorius, 75.

Referee: P Honiss (New Zealand).

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