Red card be damned! Incredible Irish effort earns first-ever win in South Africa

South Africa 20  

Ireland 26

Rory Keane reports from Newlands Stadium


South Africa have never really had much respect for Ireland, in rugby terms anyway. That perception has surely changed utterly after this stunning display on their turf in Cape Town. Down to 14 men for the best part of an hour, Ireland showed guts, guile and grace under pressure to secure their first-ever victory on Springbok soil. On a day when the Ireland U20s beat New Zealand for the first time as well. A memorable day, indeed.

To a man, Ireland were outstanding. Devin Toner, Iain Henderson, Jordi Murphy, Conor Murray and Robbie Henshaw put in tireless shifts with Paddy Jackson coming of age at fly-half.

CJ Stander’s red card in the 23rd minute for a late hit on Patrick Lambie was a seismic moment the contest. After extensive consultation with TMO, Jim Yuille, referee Mathieu Raynal sent-off the Ireland blindside.

Rory Best argues against the red for Stander. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

In the process, the Munster flanker became the first Irishman to be sent off in a Test match since Jamie Heaslip against the All Blacks in New Plymouth back in 2010.

Certainly, the severity of Lambie’s injury influenced the decision which looked more careless than malicious. Ireland would find themselves down another man 10 minutes later as Robbie Henshaw saw yellow for a late hit on Lambie’s replacement Elton Jantjes in the build-up to Lwazi Mvovo’s first-half try.

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Jared Payne’s early try and the boot of Jackson put Ireland into a 10-0 lead. A penalty apiece from Lambie and Jantjes cut the lead to 10-6 before Stander’s dismissal and Mvovo’s score made it 13-10. Henshaw was dismissed as Ireland held on, but Murray’s second-half try and the boot of Jackson sealed a memorable result.

A trademark Francois Louw pouch at the breakdown yielded the first penalty attempt of the evening for the Boks. Lambie’s 45-metre drifted wide and right, however.


An over-zealous clean-out at the ruck by Eben Etzebeth on Stander allowed Jackson to probe the line and set up an attacking lineout. Murray made a snipe into Bok territory could not find Henderson before Mtwarira secured possession leading to the first cries of ‘Beast, Beast’ from the Newlands faithful.

The Boks found themselves under huge pressure early on, conceding four penalties in the opening 10 minutes. leading to Raynal issuing warning to skipper Adriaan Strauss

Ireland driving lineouts was reaping serious dividends early on and it was from platform that Ireland scored their opening try.

From another big line-out shove, Stander and Henderson carries freed up Luke Marshall, who put a delightful dink off his left boot into the Bok with Payne winning the race to the line tou touch down.

Jackson converted in front of the posts to cap off a dream start for the visitors. To add insult to Bok injury, Lood de Jager was sin-binned as the Cheetahs lock paid for his side’s high penalty count.

The penalties continued to mount for the Boks as Ireland continued to stretch the opposition with their wide patterns, Damian de Allende the culprit this time for a high shot on Jackson. The Ulster No 10 made no mistake from the tee as Ireland raced into a 10-3 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

Then came Stander’s game-charging charge on Lambie, as Joe Schmidt’s side were forced to play the next 57 minutes with only 14 men. The Boks were hardly weakened by the arrival of Elton Jantjies onto the pitch, arguably the form fly-half in Super Rugby this season.


 Sensing their moment, the Boks went searching for their first try of the game with Le Roux and Pietersen looking dangerous in the wide zones. A monstrous carry from Frans Malherbe forced Ireland to McGrath to go off his feet at the ruck as Jantjies made it 10-6.

With Jantjes now pulling the strings at fly-half, the Boks went searching for space out wide. Ireland’s line speed was outstanding once again as Earls and Henderson rushed up to make big hits on Le Roux and Mtwarrira. A forward pass from Siya Kolisi giving Ireland some much-needed respite.

The dam finally burst in the 32nd minute though. From a rock-solid Bok scrummage, Jantjies’ deft inside pass sent Mvovo scorching over from 30 metres. Things went from bad to disastrous for Ireland as Henshaw as sin-binned was a late, hit on Jantjes in the build-up to the score. Ireland down to 13 men. Memories of Yarrow Stadium. 13-10

Amazingly, it was Ireland who scored next. Jackson showing composure to fire over a drop goal to even up the scores at 13-13.

Ireland showed huge character towards the end of a frantic half with Murray making a superb last-ditch tackle on the rampaging Vermuelen, before Heaslip tackled De Jager with Hendeson stripping him of the ball. Huge guts. Back the Boks came though. Wave after wave of Bok attacks but Jackson managed to bundle Louw into touch to bring an end to an eventful first-half.

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The second-half would begin in stunning fashion. Brilliant work from Payne and Andrew Trimble down the right wing allowed Murray to sneak through the tackle under the flailing tackle of De Jager to register his eight Test try. Jackson fired over the conversion as 14-man Ireland lead 20-13 at Newlands. Scarcely believable.

Jackson scythed through the Bok defence off static ball but De Klerk did brilliantly to cover back and touch down his chip and chase. Another let off for the Boks.

Heroic defence continued to keep the Boks at bay. Best firstly disrupting Klerk at the base of the ruck allowing Toner to secure a precious turnover. Several phases later, the Irish captain stripped possession away from De Jager, who was subsequently hauled off for Pieter-Steph du Toit. The Boks continued to butcher overlaps as Lionel Mapoe spilled Le Roux short pass with the Irish defence stretched to near braking point.

It said a lot about the Irish resilience that Allister Coetzee removed Mtwarira just before the hour mark with Francois Louw leaving the fray for Warren Whitely. Tadgh Furlong replaced an exhausted Mike Ross with his first action an almighty shove leading to an Irish penalty on the halfway line.

With a ‘Mexican Wave’ moving around the stadium, Jackson’s 50-metre effort bounced off the upright before Keith Earls followed up a brilliant cover tackle on replacement Whitely. Le Roux’s rushed clearance give the rattled Boks a brief respite.

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The outstanding Jackson sent over another long-range effort to give Ireland a precious 10-point lead with 12 minutes remaining.

Then disaster struck, Jackson’s wayward pass picked up by Du Toit, who raced in under the posts. Jantjes’ conversion cut Ireland’s lead to 23-20.

With Ultan Dillane and Sean Cronin injecting pace and energy from the bench, Jackson sat in the pocket to try another drop goal, but it drifted agonisingly wide of the right upright.

An increasing frantic Springboks side continued to make errors as Malherbe was pinged for sealing off at the ruck.

Up stepped Jackson with six minutes remaining to land another monster kick to make it 26-20 with four minutes to go.

The Boks went hunting for a late match-winning try with the frantic Irish cover defence bundling Pietersen into touch.

South Africa scorers:

Tries: Mvovo, Du Toit
Conversions: Jantjes [2]
Penalties: Lambie [1], Jantjes [1]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Payne, Murray
Conversions: Jackson [2]
Penalties: Jackson [4]

SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Lionel Mapoe (Jesse Kriel ‘68), Damian de Allende, Lwazi Mvovo; Pat Lambie (Elton Jantjies ‘23), Faf de Klerk (Rudy Paige ‘68); Tendai Mtawarira (Trevor Nyakane ‘59), Adriaan Strauss (captain), Frans Malherbe (Julian Redelinghuys ‘74); Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager (Pieter-Steph du Toit ‘56); Francois Louw (Warren Whiteley ‘56), Siya Kolisi, Duane Vermeulen

Replacements not used: Bongi Mbonambi

IRELAND: Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Robbie Henshaw, Luke Marshall, Keith Earls (Craig Gilroy ‘74); Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best (captain) (Sean Cronin’ 70), Mike Ross (Tadhg Furlong ‘58); Iain Henderson (Ultan Dillane ‘70), Devin Toner; CJ Stander, Jordi Murphy (Rhys Ruddock ‘74), Jamie Heaslip

Replacements not used: Finlay Bealham, Kieran Marmion, Ian Madigan,
Referee: Mathieu Raynal [FFR].

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