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Bomb Squad flex muscles as South Africa grind out win over Ireland

By PA
South Africa's Vincent Koch (C), with blood on his face, shakes hand with Ireland's Conor Murray (R) after South Africa won the first Rugby Union test match between South Africa and Ireland at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria on July 6, 2024. (Photo by Marco Longari / AFP) (Photo by MARCO LONGARI/AFP via Getty Images)

Ireland wing James Lowe went from hero to zero as world champions South Africa underlined their status as Test rugby’s top-ranked nation with a gripping 27-20 win in Pretoria.

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Lowe produced a sensational offload to set up a debut try for Jamie Osborne and thought he had brought Andy Farrell’s men level with a superb breakaway score in the second half.

But the New Zealand-born player’s eye-catching effort was ruled out on review for an adjudged infringement by Ronan Kelleher before he gifted Cheslin Kolbe a try to put the Springboks back in control.

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Conor Murray and Ryan Baird crossed for Ireland late on, either side of a penalty try for South Africa, in a remarkable finish at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

But Rassie Erasmus’ side, aided by 10 points from the boot of fly-half from Handre Pollard, held on to seize the initiative ahead of next weekend’s second – and final – Test in Durban.

Fixture
Internationals
South Africa
27 - 20
Full-time
Ireland
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In worrying scenes, Ireland also saw scrum-half Craig Casey carried off on a stretcher after he hit his head on the pitch during a forceful tackle from RG Snyman.

Farrell’s tourists were seeking a fourth-successive Irish victory over South Africa following a captivating pool-stage win at last year’s World Cup in France.

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The Springboks recovered from that 13-8 Paris defeat to retain the Webb Ellis Cup, while forthright comments emanating from their camp since have further stoked a growing rivalry between Test rugby’s two leading sides.

Home supporters humorously fanned the flames by adapting the words of Ireland’s unofficial World Cup anthem ‘Zombie’, chanting “in your head, in your head, Rassie, Rassie” in reference to the frequent mind games of head coach Erasmus.

South Africa responded to the big build-up and made a rapid start as jet-heeled wing Arendse collected Siya Kolisi’s pass to sidestep Osborne and cross on the left.

Ireland travelled to the southern hemisphere having bounced back from a familiar World Cup quarter-final exit by retaining the Six Nations title.

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Jack Crowley’s 13-minute penalty put the visitors on the scoreboard before Pollard twice split the posts at the other end to move the Springboks 10 points ahead.

Farrell’s men were struggling to build momentum amid a low-energy first-half display.

Crowley missed a routine penalty to reduce the deficit before Lowe’s magnificent offload as he was ploughed into touch by a combination of Kolbe and Jesse Kriel, after a slick pass from Dan Sheehan gave international newcomer Osborne a simple score.

Ireland were perhaps fortunate to only trail 13-8 at the break.

Erasmus brought on all six of his replacement forwards 10 minutes into the second period in an attempt to remain on top of the physical battle, just before visiting prop Andrew Porter departed with a bloodied hand.

Following his fine first-half assist, Lowe looked to have restored parity by darting clear to touch down.

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But referee Luke Pearce disallowed the 58th-minute effort on review as replacement hooker Kelleher was deemed to have played the ball on the floor during the turnover.

Ireland’s misfortune was compounded by the worrying departure of Casey, before Lowe, in his attempts to keep the ball from going into touch, left Kolbe with an unchallenged run to the try line.

The contest then burst into life during a frenetic finish during which the Springboks were reduced to 14 men when Kurt-Lee Arendse was sin binned following repeated infringements inside the hosts’ 22.

Murray – on for the stricken Casey – dived over to put Ireland back in touching distance but a penalty try for the Springboks, prior to Baird’s consolation, ultimately decided a breathless encounter.

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Comments

48 Comments
K
Kabous 13 days ago

Lowe had quite a game with 4 try assists. Two for Ireland and two for Boks.

T
Turlough 14 days ago

TMO call on Kelleher was ridiculously harsh. How could there be clear and compelling evidence that he deliberately kicked the ball on the ground when his head was buried and he couldn't see where the ball was? Pivotal decision arguably.
SA were clearly the stronger team but will be disappointed at the points return. Irish defence was reasonably good and the scoreboard pressure (only leading by a score) seemed to be pressuring South Africa.
Their scrum will perform better next time now Irelands first test tricks are known.
The other Irish backs should have supported Lowe when he retrieved the Pollard penalty. They were blowing hard. Maybe that was the altitude try.

B
Barry 14 days ago

Super game!

Still the preeminent fixture in test rugby at the moment. Stunned neither team fell off in the last 10 mins and both even found a second gear.

I think Ireland were on the wrong side of a least 1 of the big TMO calls. Still, we were lucky to be in it at half-time and Pollard rarely leaves so many points behind. Fair result though. Can't wait for next week.

C
Chris 14 days ago

What a test match! Great to get that monkey off our backs! I feel like we left another 20 points out there and we could’ve put a big score on them. Well done to Ireland for staying in the fight. Most teams would’ve crumbled under that pressure.

T
Turlough 14 days ago

One of the worst performances I’ve seen from Ireland since 2020. It felt that SA were there for the taking but Ireland kept sabotaging their many opportunities.
I am going to say it: legend or not….checking out scrum variations in the airport terminal or not….Paul O’Connell has failed wrt Ireland’s lineout. It has been poor for years now and is hurting us in major matches. Both SA and NZ demolished it in the RWC. O’Connell needs to go or at least hire a real lineout specialist. An ex hooker.

Casey is not the answer to Sexton. He is not. The kicking return and amount of mistakes makes it impossible to beat these big teams. On what planet does he fire a rocket 50:50 pass at a forward when we are in the opposition 22 and attacking. Knock on was the result. Backs asleep for Lowe’s touchline save for Pollard’s penalty. ALL asleep (except Kolby). Will give Kolbe’s starting position the benefit of the doubt until I see it properly.

Lastly, if SA hand you a game in Loftus…..f**king TAKE IT!

M
MattJH 14 days ago

Both sides are a head and shoulders above the All Blacks and England at the moment.
Ireland will be disappointed, they are much better than that performance but so are the Boks.
I would like to see R G Snyman start. I can see why they use him like they do but the guy is a joy to watch, should at least be getting 50 minutes a game.

F
Flankly 14 days ago

Disappointing match from almost every perspective. No joy from an Irish point of view. Bok attacking adventure came at the cost of handling errors and ugly ruck ball. Apart from the penalty try the set pieces were also pretty messy. And Pollard's reliable goalkicking wasn't. Anyone tuning in to see scintillating skills could switch off after the Arendse try (which was certainly a highlight). Also not a lot of excitement around the Bok selection experiments (Kwagga, Sasha, Moerat, Steenekamp).

Plus - it's never fun to witness a serious injury. Best of luck to Casey.

f
finn 14 days ago

Really poor performance from Ireland.

Boks took their chances well, but will face much tougher tests than this.

b
bob 14 days ago

I would like to see the springboks in their traditional dark green jumpers.
Those colors are easier to identify even with Ireland’s lighter green color.

B
Brent 14 days ago

Cracker game!…so much for changing rules to satisfy the 7s and league lovers!

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