Well, Ireland put in a better performance than what was expected, but it just wasn’t enough to beat South Africa. Though leading 12-3 at half-time, they eventually lost the match, 16-12, Ireland failing to score a single point in the 2nd half.
It looked very good for Ireland at the start. They dominated a weak ‘Springbok’ side in the first half, with Jonny Sexton punishing the South African’s for their ill-discipline. Ireland looked to be on the way to a great victory.
Ireland, though, took the foot off the gas in the 2nd-half and let South Africa back in the match. The turning point was the sin-binning of Jaimie Heaslip, which gave the ‘Springboks’ a temporary lead which they capitalised on.
During Heaslip’s enforced absence, South Africa scored a try through Ulster scrum-half, Ruan Pienarr, which turned the game. The try galvanised the ‘Springboks’, and they dominated Ireland from then, scoring 13 un-answered points to win the game.
South Africa were there for the taking but Ireland just couldn’t capitalise on their lead, which is a very familiar story. Despite the better performance, the history books will still show this as a loss, the 5th in a row for Ireland.
The victory over Australia in the World Cup seemed to signal a return to the highs of the Grand Slam for Ireland, but since that match it has been mainly disappointment, with only 2 win’s from 10 games, and the New Zealand slaughter as the real low.
Coupled with the losses are mainly very poor performances, with the first half against France, and the middle test against New Zealand, the only times the team rose above mediocre.
It wasn’t a personnel problem either, as we had a pretty strong side for most of the season. Ireland really needs to get its act together if we are to contend for the Grand Slam in the near future, and do well in the next World Cup.
All the top nations are playing matches at the moment, and, judging on Ireland’s performance, in relation to others, we’re going to suffer. As it stands, not propping up next year’s Six Nations table (ie coming last) would be an achievement.
England, after an uneasy start, put Fiji to the sword, 54-12. France shocked everyone by crushing Australia, 33-6. Although Scotland lost to New Zealand, 51-22, it was a spirited performance by the Scots.
Grand Slam champions Wales were the only disappointment, surprisingly, losing 26-12 to Argentina. It was a great performance by the ‘Pumas’, and showed their improvement since featuring in the Rugby Championship.
Ireland are playing Argentina on the 24th of November and should be vary wary of the ‘Pumas’. Argentina are facing France this Saturday, and another scalp would make the Argentinians a very tough team to beat.
Back to the South Africa game, and while the team performance wasn’t great, some of the players did well, with the forwards having the biggest impact on the game, especially, debutant Mike McCarthy, who was voted Man-of-the-Match.
Flankers Henry and O’Mahony, also put in good performances. Richard Strauss got a knock early on, and though he continued, he was overshadowed by his opposite number (and cousin).
Ireland could have added to its injury woes when Cian Healy went off, but luckily it was only a temporary substitution. It gave Michael Bent his cap, though, controversial as it may be. It’s rare that a player’s first game is an international.
Heaslip had a pretty good game as captain, but his major contribution was a negative one. His sin-binning turned the match for the South Africans.
In the backs, Zebo did quite well in his unaccustomed role at full-back. I don’t think he’ll be an effective challenger to Rob Kearney, though. Earls made some good breaks but he did have the expected problems trying to tackle the bigger South African centres.
Murray had a good game, but was overshadowed by his opposite number Pienarr (pity he isn’t eligible for Ireland as he’s definitely the best scrum-half playing in the Ireland at the moment).
An Ireland XV take on Fiji this Saturday (5.30). It won’t be a full international but I think Kidney should stick with roughly the same side, maybe bring in McFadden for D’Arcy (D’Arcy didn’t have a very good game).
Ireland really need to improve its performance, and be able to maintain a lead, if we are to win games. This team could very well be our 1st choice team for a while (injuries may take longer to heal) so they’re the best chance we have at the moment.