Ireland opened their November Test programme in fine style on Saturday, running in four tries to thrash an out-of-sorts South Africa 38-3 at the Aviva Stadium.
Winger Andrew Conway followed up Johnny Sexton’s three early penalties with an opportunistic score to give Joe Schmidt’s side a healthy 14-0 lead at the halfway stage in Dublin.
Elton Jantjies’ penalty briefly hinted at a comeback but the struggling Springboks faded badly, allowing their ruthless hosts to run away with it in the closing stages.
Substitutes Rhys Ruddock and Rob Herring crashed over before Jacob Stockdale dived over in the final move of the game, rounding out a superb performance from the Irish ahead of supposedly easier outings against Fiji and Argentina.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 11, 2017
Losing Coenie Oosthuizen to injury inside the opening minute was admittedly a rough start for South Africa, the prop taken from the field on a cart following a heavy tackle from Ireland debutant Bundee Aki.
However, they only had themselves to blame for giving away a plethora of penalties that allowed Sexton to open up a gap on the scoreboard, the British and Irish Lions fly-half slotting over nine easy points inside the opening 20 minutes.
Using the greasy conditions in their favour, Ireland pegged back their opponents by consistently and persistently kicking high to South Africa’s back three, a pre-planned tactic that led to the game’s opening try.
Courtnall Skosan’s failure to reel in a towering bomb allowed opposing winger Conway to mop up possession and gallop away to the right corner for a score Sexton failed to convert.
South Africa finally began to warm to their task on a fresh Dublin evening in the closing stages of the first half, though they had to wait until after the break to get their first points of the contest.
Jantjies’ penalty followed an infringement in the loose by CJ Stander, the back-rower who represented South Africa at junior level before switching allegiances in 2016.
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) November 11, 2017
Ireland had let slip a 19-3 interval lead in the second Test against the Springboks in Johannesburg last year but any fears of another second-half collapse disappeared when a penalty just before the hour mark allowed Sexton to restore the 14-point cushion.
Having sucked the life out of a South Africa team lacking cohesion in attack, Ireland demonstrated their strength in depth by adding three tries in the closing nine minutes.
After forwards Ruddock and Herring bulldozed over from close range, replacement fly-half Joey Carbery produced a cross-field kick that allowed Stockdale to have the final say in the left corner.
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