IT was green for go for Ireland – and South Africa were stopped by their traffic lights.
Andy Farrell’s men won 13-8 in an arm wrestle of a game that could well prove to be a dress rehearsal for the final.
But it was a game where Ireland could have lost to the Springboks’ bomb squad – their seven forwards sprung from the bench – were it not for their traffic lights and missed kicks.
Boks’ coach Jacques Nienaber flashes lights for his players to see when deciding what to do off penalties and three times in the second half they missed penalties after the signal.
Faf de Klerk missed two from inside his own half while Manie Libbok missed one, which combined with his missed conversation meant they left 11 points behind.
And that allowed Ireland to earn a big win as Mack Hansen’s try and Johnny Sexton’s two successful kicks – one a penalty – and Jack Crowley’s last kick claimed the victory.
It was heroic for Ireland.
The Boks bashed them and Ireland bent but never broke early on when little was going right and then swung momentum to edge their noses in front.
And while the South African bomb squad threatened to blow up Ireland at times, they were ultimately diffused as Ireland’s pack fronted up when it mattered.
As the clock turned red and the Boks mauled towards the Ireland goal line, it was South Africa’s discipline that let them down as the Irish in the Stade went bananas.
The Cranberries ‘Zombie’ was belted out and it could well be an anthem heard all the way to the final.
It is now 16 wins in a row for the world’s No. 1 ranked team and proves once and for all that Ireland are the team to beat at this World Cup.
The meeting with the Boks was always going to be an acid test of Ireland and, South African missed kicks aside, they delivered in spades.
And all after a ropey start when it looked like South Africa were a test that Ireland would fail.
After Ireland kicked-off, Ronan Kelleher smashed Damian Willemse and some poor Springboks handling and then discipline had Ireland inside their 22.
Rather than take the three points, Sexton showed Ireland’s intent to kick for the corner and take a lineout against the best defensive lineout team in the world.
And when Pieter-Steph du Toit showed by the Boks are the best with a steal, Ireland were in trouble within seconds as a kick, a bounce and Kurt-Lee Arendse switched the play.
When Ireland went off their feet to give away a penalty, there was no messing from the Boks as they took the three points as Libbok nailed his kick.
And that had the South African fans drowning out the Irish in the Stade de France as their team did what they expected, and had Ireland in trouble.
And for the next 30 minutes, Ireland were all at sea yet the scoreboard never changed.
The Ireland lineout was malfunctioning – at one stage Kelleher even threw a crooked ball in – as the Boks dominated at the set-piece.
And when Ireland did get it right, there were more errors.
Caelan Doris knocked on near the try line after a great break from Hugo Keenan and Tadhg Furlong was penalised in the scrum to let South Africa out.
Then Garry Ringrose was forced off for a HIA and a James Lowe knockout led to the Boks having a scrum under the Irish posts.
Yet when the pressure was really on, Ireland’s defence held firm as Bundee Aki made a brilliant challenge on Jessie Kriel inches from the line.
And that swung the momentum Ireland’s way as, suddenly, everything started going right.
Aki had been having a quiet game, but he then made a remarkable run from inside his own 22 to inside South Africans as Irleand went through the phases and won a penalty.
And that led to the game’s opening try as Johnny Sexton nearly went off on a loop around before Mack Hansen went over in the corner on a long throw wide by Lowe.
Half time came with Ireland on the front foot and returned after the break pushing forward again.
Jamison Gibson-Park and Johnny Sexton grubber kicks had the Boks back inside their own 22.
And South Africa’s concern was perhaps seen when they elected to kick a penalty from inside their own half only for de Klerk to hit the post and Ireland to win a scrum.
But that led to Jacques Nienaber unleashing his bomb squad – with four forwards coming on at the same time on 48 minutes.
Instantly, they won a penalty in a scrum and elected to take another one. And worked off the base of it to score a try as Cheslin Kolbe went over in the corner.
Libbok missed a very kickable conversion that meant South Africa led by just one point, and Ireland got back to work.
Whatever the fears about the bomb squad, Andrew Porter was doing a good job of single handedly diffusing them.
He won a penalty in a scrum on the hour mark that Sexton drilled down the middle to restore Ireland’s lead.
But that Boks’ bomb squad kept coming and won another penalty with a powerful scrum on 64 minutes.
But once again, it was missed as Libbok shot wide though they had an instant chance to try another kick when Josh van der Flier was penalised from the kick-off.
The Boks went back to scrum half de Klerk and the Ireland fans behind the goal were cheering that it was going wide as soon as it left his foot.
And that was close as South Africa got despite some good moves late in the game as Ireland always found a way.
Ryan Baird made a heroic challenge near the Ireland goal line and Conor Murray’s steadying influence proved crucial while a Tadhg Beirne kick got Ireland up the field.
That Ireland then won a second penalty against the South African bomb squad in a scrum with three minutes to go was incredible, and Jack Crowley kicked the points.
There was still more heroics needed as the game ticked into the 80th minute but Ireland put up their own red light to halt South Africa at the death.
South Africa 8
Tries: M Hansen
Cons: J Sexton
Pens: J Sexton, J Crowley
Tries: C Kolbe
Pens: M Libbok
September 24, 2023 at 02:36AM
from The Sun