South Africa survived a late comeback from Ireland to record their first victory on Irish soil in ten years, winning 23-21 on Saturday.
South Africa survived a late comeback from Ireland to record their first victory on Irish soil in ten years, winning 23-21 at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
There have been a few comments regarding 'traditional' Test match rugby of late and the purists wouldn't have been disappointed in Dublin.
A late conversion from Ronan O'Gara bounced off an upright to deny Ireland a draw that had seemed unlikely only a few minutes earlier after South Africa had controlled the game from the outset.
In soaking wet conditions, the set piece was always going to be primordial and the Springboks' dominance in both the scrums and line-outs laid the platform for victory.
With a few familiar faces missing from the Bok back-line, the visitors probably welcomed the rain as it allowed their experienced pack to rule the roost.
The hosts weren't doing themselves any favours though – crooked throw-ins, early engagements and fumbled passes became all too frequent under the pressure from the tourists.
Ireland did enough however to remain in contact and a purple patch in the final quarter brought them within inches of grabbing a share of the spoils as the Boks switched off.
With expansive play not advisable, South Africa's ball retention in the tight stuff was key to the outcome and few can deny the right team came out on top.
The hosts could hardly get their hands on the ball in the first quarter and South Africa's 10-0 lead after seventeen minutes was a fair reflection of the early proceedings.
An Irish fumble under pressure at a line-out allowed Juan Smith to latch onto the loose ball and gallop 50m for the game's first try to add to MornÃ© Steyn's early penalty.
Jonathan Sexton got Ireland on the board from the tee just before the half-hour mark but the men in green had hardly threatened the South African try-line.
The respective fly-halves exchanged penalties with Sexton adding his second just before the break to send the teams to the changing rooms at 13-6 to the South Africans.
A change of shirts for Ireland at half-time didn't change the complexion of the match and Steyn was allowed to extend the lead with half-an-hour left on the clock.
Sexton replied a few minutes later to keep the home side in touch going into the final quarter.
A number of eyebrows were raised when Springboks coach Peter de Villiers replaced Steyn with 20-year-old Patrick Lambie. The young Shark missed a sitter with his first attempt at goal and will be a relieved man that O'Gara couldn't find the target at the death.
The killer blow seemed to have been dealt with fifteen minutes to play when Gio Aplon cut inside off his wing to take a switch pass from Zane Kirchner and cruise home untouched.
Ireland hadn't played their last card however.
Replacement pivot O'Gara's cross-field kick found Tommy Bowe out wide and the winger raced home to set up a grandstand finish.
Ireland finally sparked into life and their best spell of the game saw Rob Kearney at the end of a long pass (that was almost intercepted by Aplon) to score in the corner.
One can't blame O'Gara from missing a difficult conversion and his wry smile told the tail of a disappointing evening for Ireland.
Man of the match: Hats off the South African pack. Victor Matfield was supreme in the line-outs, but we'll go for Juan Smith – not just for his try, but for carrying the ball like a gladiator and tackling like a machine.
Moment of the match: Ireland were hanging on until Aplon's try gave the visitors a fourteen-point lead. In the final reckoning it proved decisive but also sparked a revival from the hosts that produced the most exciting period of the match.
Villain of the match: What a shame this thrilling Test was to see so many empty seats in such a magnificent stadium. Whoever came up with IRFU's ticketing strategy got it horribly wrong!
Tries: Bowe, Kearney
Pens: Sexton 3
For South Africa:
Tries: Smith, Aplon
Cons: Steyn, Lambie
Pens: Steyn 3
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (c), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Mick O'Driscoll, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Donncha Ryan, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Peter Stringer, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Keith Earls.
South Africa: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Zane Kirchner, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 MornÃ© Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 FranÃ§ois Hougaard, 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Patrick Lambie.
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), Keith Brown (New Zealand)
TMO: Hugh Watkins (Wales)