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Watch: Ireland stun South Africa with incredible final play winner

By Finn Morton
Gavin Mullin on day one of the HSBC SVNS Grand Final at Stadium Civitas Metropolitano on 31 May, 2024 in Madrid, Spain. Photo credit: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

It was the type of match that’s fitting for a SVNS Series Grand Final. With time up on the clock, Ireland trailed South Africa 19-21 at Madrid’s Civitas Metropolitano and initially had the ball at the wrong end of the field.

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From inside their own half, Ireland began to make their way up the field. While the match appeared all but lost for the Irish, they certainly didn’t give up as they began to throw the ball around like the Harlem Globetrotters.

The Blitzboks fought desperately in defence but each pass and offload seemed to stick for the Irish. South Africa’s Rosko Specman attempted to disrupt their opponent’s momentum with some rush defence but the Irish were simply too slick.

Jordan Conroy played an especially crucial role in this spiritual phase play, with the bandaged-up back dancing towards midfield from the left touchline and beating a few defenders in the process. Then, Conroy got an offload off.

Ireland basically went coast-to-coast and eventually managed to snatch the win at the death on the back of some incredible teamwork. Gavin Mullin was the hero in the end with the 26-year-old crossing for his second of two tries in the 18th minute.

The men in green left with a once-unlikely 26-21 win.

“I just picked it up at the end and scored it,” Mullin told RugbyPass.

“The lads have had a lot of fight throughout the year, just last-minute kind of… there’s a lot of one-score games, so we just found ourselves on the right side of it, which is probably a testament to the team and how much we want to fight.

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They make a break at the end, we’re down two points, they nearly go the length, (Jordan Conroy is) chasing back to get them, and then we just had to regather ourselves and go again.”

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Ireland came close to winning the SVNS Series’ League title. They didn’t win any Cup finals during the seven regular-season events but were consistently one of the top four or so teams, which included a couple of famous wins.

The Irish beat New Zealand for the first time last December in Cape Town, and they also brought an end to Argentina’s incredible unbeaten run with a win in the Los Angeles quarter-finals earlier this year. They’ve been a good team, but they want to be better.

Trophies are what players want to win and it’s also the criteria that many fans judge their teams on. Ireland haven’t quite been on the mark in that regard this season but as they walked off the field and down the tunnel on Friday, they looked like a team who believed.

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That win over South Africa is only the start, and while there’s still plenty of rugby to be played at the new-look Grand Final event in the Spanish capital, it’s “all to play for” and that’s exciting for any team and nation that’s involved.

“It’s just about being consistent, across the five games this weekend. We’ve had tournaments where we’ve played well but we might have had one or two bad games and just been lucky nearly,” Mullin explained.

“I think just for ourselves, it’s about being consistent and trying to build on that performance. It wasn’t perfect but at the end of the day, we’re getting on the right side of the result. That’s what happens with the one-off tournament, all to play for.”

Catch all of the SVNS Madrid action live and free on RugbyPass TV. To watch the Grand Final, register HERE.

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