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The reason why Andy Farrell believes Ireland can level Test series

By Liam Heagney
Ireland players gather in a huddle as scrum-half Craig Casey (unseen) receives medical treatment in Pretoria (Photo by Marco Longari/ AFP via Getty Images)

Andy Farrell isn’t writing off his Ireland team off from levelling the two-game Test series with South Africa next Saturday in Durban. The reigning Guinness Six Nations champions never got going in Pretoria until it was too late, losing 20-27 at Loftus Versfeld and bemoaning in the aftermath a number of TMO calls that went against them.


It was 16 weeks since the Irish last played a Test, the March 16 win over Scotland in Dublin which clinched them the championship for the second successive year. However, they can’t say they were under-prepared for what was involved playing away in South Africa as Leinster, who provide the bulk of the players to Farrell’s Test team, played in Pretoria just three weeks earlier.

The Irish province weren’t at the top of their game in that URC semi-final versus the Bulls and they lost out 20-25, and a similar fate happened to Ireland as they paid the price for a disappointing first half where they were fortunate to only trail 8-13 at the interval.

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They improved in the second only to be left frustrated by the two TMO calls involving winger James Lowe, one which cancelled out his Ireland try and another which green-lighted the awarding of a South African score to Cheslin Kolbe.

Lowe was then shabbily at fault for the concession of the scrum which led to a penalty try and a yellow card for sub Ronan Kelleher. Ireland did score tries either side of that Lowe mishap, but it wasn’t enough to prevent them from losing.

Farrell was frustrated in the aftermath that his team hadn’t attacked the match as they would have liked, and there were words said at half-time to ignite a reaction that wasn’t enough to save them from defeat.

However, they have been in this situation before, losing the opening Test two years ago in New Zealand, and they then bounced back to level the series a week later.


That head-to-head was a three-game affair, which the Irish clinched 2-1, but it is just two in South Africa so next weekend is their last chance at securing what would only be their second-ever away win on South African soil versus the Springboks.

Asked what he would change from the Test-series opener with a view to next weekend, Farrell said: “Quite a bit actually. The main thing is attacking the game the way that we wanted to do it. Not being desperate next week just because lost this week. If that creeps in then you become even more indisciplined and discipline cost us.

“I know the penalty count wasn’t outrageous (9-9). It’s the way that we put pressure on ourselves and relieved pressure on them is what we need to address. There is some great learning from the first half that we put right in the second half.

“We were still not clinical enough when we had chances on the Springboks line. You have got to convert in big games like this, there is no doubt about that. If you put things like that right, we were still in the game so that says to you there is a chance (next week).


“It had a little bit of everything, the unexpected was popping up at times and that was the game in the end,” he added. “South Africa deserved to win the game, so congratulations to them. First half I thought we were off.

“I thought was gave away access for them to be able to play their game. Defensively we were a bit passive, certainly for the first try. But then the story of the game for me after some words at half time, I thought it was courageous at times how we defended and got ourselves into the game.

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“In fact it is the make-up of this team. History would say that even with the type of performance in the first half we hung on in there and we don’t go away. There is plenty of teams that would have been under the pump in the first half and got the game run away with in the second half and we didn’t.

“We stayed in the fight and could have, should have, would have at times with some decisions that rightly or wrongly didn’t go our way.”

What won’t help is the Ireland casualty list coming out of Loftus. Craig Casey exited on a medical cart after a second-half concussion, while Dan Sheehan and Robbie Henshaw didn’t return for the second half after needing treatment at different stages in the opening half.


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GrahamVF 13 days ago

The Irish just could not match the Boks physicality. De Allende and Kolisi ran through Irish tackles at will. Even the smallest man in the Bok team Kolbe bumped of several tacklers. I really think Ireland were flattered by the score.

Almi 15 days ago

Bokka were by far the better team on Saturday and showed more in every department in their determined game plan to beat a somewhat quiet and dis-orientated Ireland, who did not/were not allowed to play their type of game. Seriously missed the intensity and drive Bundi Aki (spelling?) as well as I thought Peter Mahoney was kept very, very quiet and although some late tries for Ireland, their overall performance was disappointing. May be different in the Durban Test but I believe the Bokka will win comfortably, 2 out of 2.

Gerald 15 days ago

On another note- I have been saying for many years that when the Boks start passing and we have our big guys running on to the ball at pace, we will become very difficult to handle. While this was a start at passing and attacking space, we should get better as we get more used to doing it. When last did we make so many passes against a top 5 team and possibly Ireland had to make more tackles than we did. Our predictable game is now less so.

Gerald 15 days ago

The reason Ireland can level the series is there is another game still. So fairly obvious. They could also lose which will mean they don’t level series.

Craig 15 days ago

Ireland never looked like winning.
The boks were experimenting all sorts of stuff and giving all the boys a run after not been together since world cup. Pollard missed 9 easy points.
We getting our guys ready for NZ
Sorry Irish we really enjoy you guys but that’s the truth.
It’s also the first time we have played our best side against Ireland

Flankly 15 days ago

The Lowe call for the Kolbe try did not go against Lowe. It was in his favor, not against him.

He was trying very hard to keep the ball in play, and the ref/TMO decided that he succeeded. It was brilliantly athletic, committed and focused. And it was close, but he managed to get it done. Thumbs up from the ref. Good job, Lowe.

The problem is that keeping a loose ball in play when you have Kolbe prowling around is not the safest thing to do. So Irish commentators are now wishing that the call had gone against Lowe, which is fair enough. But it is a bit weird to go further and say that Lowe was unlucky to be ruled successful at something he tried so hard to pull off.

You’d have to believe that in the tape review the conversation will sound more like “WTF - don’t do that”.

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