The fascinating 10 minutes that defined Ireland’s victory over South Africa

Mack Hansen' - AP

Mack Hansen’ – AP

If both teams find another level of intensity next year, the pool match between Ireland and South Africa will be truly special. Saturday in Dublin was an irresistible slugfestwith the hosts ultimately prevailing to win 19-16 and cement their number one ranking.

Of course, such a nickname means nothing 11 months away from the World Cup. Ireland knows this better than anyone. A golden year in 2018 did not translate into success in 2019. Still, defeating the defending champions fulfilled Andy Farrell’s request that his players “embrace” their position at the top.

Significant moments and momentum swings occurred throughout the contest, but Ireland pulled out in a vital 10-minute span. They enjoyed a few slices of fortune, but also highlighted their composure and precision.

More importantly, what has been a common theme of their progress under Farrell, they showed conviction and played to their strengths while struggling to undo those of the Springboks.

Aerial run and set piece breakaway

Less than a minute after half-time, Ireland defend. Having resisted any temptation to flood the breakdown, they have 13 men standing in the front line. Jamison Gibson-Park and Jimmy O’Brien, a first-half substitute for Stuart McCloskey, cover the backcourt.

Ireland’s solidity in play caused Cheslin Kolbe to throw a number of ups and downs during the game. These seemed like the last resort for a team struggling to break their opponents.

Kolbe is aiming for the far flank, where Kurt-Lee Arendse, who has to readjust from an offside position, and Pieter-Steph du Toit continue:

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It’s not Mack Hansen’s most compelling moment. Arendse beats him in the air and Du Toit is there to pick up the ricochet. Watch how Gibson-Park pushes and forces the trial and error, though. This tenacity earns Ireland a melee bet:

With big names such as Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw already missing, it will have been a huge boost that Ireland treated the early injuries of McCloskey, Conor Murray and Tadhg Furlong.

As the packs come together, note that James Ryan fights behind Finlay Bealham, Furlong’s deputy at the tight-headed prop:

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Ryan, who is just 26, had a stunning rise and meteoric rise before facing criticism as his influence plateaued. Ireland and Leinster have consistently faltered against tough opponents.

In that regard, Saturday was a big step forward as, for the most part, Ireland held off the powerhouse of South Africa, Ryan leapt for a close-range volley in the 38th minute and, alongside of Tadhg Beirne, was at the heart of a turnover maul. in the 58th minute.

Here, South Africa smells of blood. They cross Steven Kitshoff’s side of the scrum and Bealham backs up. Ireland is lucky. Jaden Hendrikse knocks himself down in a Gibson-Park pickpocket attempt:

It gives Ireland another face-off and we can see the difference in the setups. All of the hosts’ forwards, including number eight Caelan Doris, are on their knees in a bid for stability. Conversely, Jasper Wiese, South African number eight, throws slingshots in the free kick:

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On this occasion, Kitshoff is penalized for not standing. Nika Amashukeli, the referee, simply points at him and says, “Down”:

As is often the case, this penalty could have gone either way. Ireland benefits this time, and capitalizes.

Set piece and attack without Sexton

Johnny Sexton kicks for the touch and this screenshot, as Ireland position themselves for the ensuing lineout, charts their first phase move.

Peter O’Mahony starts between two other jumpers, Beirne and Ryan, and will go around the back. Garry Ringrose and Doris will hit short lines in midfield as Gibson-Park, Sexton and Hansen perform in a second wave:

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Watch him play. Hansen overshoots slightly, which means Sexton’s inside pass has to come forward. Ireland are lucky again, but respond brilliantly as South Africa hold on:

Hansen makes a pass from the ground and O’Brien readjusts to take it:

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We are used to seeing Ireland go through fluid game patterns. Here they thrive in unstructured chaos. O’Brien cuts against the tide and breaks the middle:

At crucial moments in the match, especially at the very end, Ireland zigzagged from ruck to ruck down the same 15-yard lane. They do it here too. In this case, Gibson-Park is powering Hugo Keenan. Note how Hansen is close to breakdown. He’s probably telling Gibson-Park that an inside movie – made famous by the great Australian George Gregan – is a possibility:

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Indeed, during the next phase, following a postponement from Ringrose, the space opens up. Steven Kitshoff pulls away from the ruck and Siya Kolisi follows Gibson-Park. Hansen has a small gap around the fringe and explodes deeper into the 22:

It’s a great example of the variety Ireland give in attack and how that affects defenses that are faced with so many decisions.

Moments later, the resourceful Hansen is back on his feet to wrap a long pass to O’Mahony over two shooting defenders – Hendrikse and Arendse:

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You may have already noticed something about this Irish attack. That’s it: Sexton hasn’t been involved since the initial strike, after being rattled by Jesse Kriel’s tough tackle.

Ringrose intervenes in the absence of his opener and is an assertive presence. He calls himself first receiver here…

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…then a few seconds later in the next phase as Beirne and Ryan cut short angles:

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As the camera moves we can see Keenan in a second wave. Either way, Ringrose flashes a dummy and gets between Frans Malherbe and Du Toit. The ruck is quick and Gibson-Park shoots a penalty as Malherbe rolls his way:

This view shows how Ireland have several potential receivers on both sides of the split:

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Even without Sexton, they showed enough deception, drive and unpredictability to confuse the Springboks.

Capitalize and consolidate

This tweet from Murray Kinsella describes the conversation that took place between Ryan and Sexton before the latter pushed an eminently kickable penalty into the corner.

A swell of noise greeted this call, which strengthened Ireland’s faith in what has become a major force: their driving maul:

Speed ​​is key and Josh van der Flier takes advantage of this fast drive, the openside stretching as South Africa try to group their rivals into contact:

Ireland settles down. Doris recovers the restart and carries well before Gibson-Park feeds O’Brien.

O’Brien’s polished beginnings testify to his ability as an individual. But more importantly, it demonstrated the collective cohesion that a new player – even if it was a Leinster colleague among many others on the pitch – could fit in and thrive. O’Brien hits a long clearance:

He is caught by Damian Willemse, who feeds Kolbe. Watch Bealham, amid the Ireland chase:

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He makes a one-on-one tackle before bouncing to his feet immediately:

Ireland have 15 men on their feet again, with O’Brien and Keenan in the backfield and Gibson-Park sweeping, covering the chips while occasionally joining the front line. Eben Etzebeth takes an inside pass from Willemse…

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…but Sexton and Van der Flier stand firm. Soon Kolbe is back in the air, with Makazole Mapimpi and Kolisi – a speedster and breakdown spoiler – in hot pursuit. Watch Ringrose during the retreat:

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When Keenan rushes to collect, his Leinster team-mate burrows in fiercely to secure possession:

Shortly after, Gibson-Park hoists a box-kick. Ringrose and Robert Baloucoune lead the hunt with Dan Sheehan, part ruck, part watch:

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Willemse has to line up the kick and immediately finds himself in a dead end. Baloucoune and Ringrose tackle him and Sheehan is a nuisance:

As Rassie Erasmus seemed to point out on Twitter the next day, Sheehan illegally kicks the ball into the ruck to force the turnover:

Once again, however, Ireland take full advantage of this stroke of luck:

Transition test

Doris’ alertness is matched only by the skill of the back rower. He rounds the breakdown on tiptoe as the ball is exposed, absorbing a hard kick from Vincent Koch to send a spinning offload to Van der Flier:

It would have been much easier for Doris to watch the ball cross the touchline, allowing Ireland to pressure a South African line-up in a tricky area of ​​the pitch.

Instead, he knows keeping the ball in play will allow Ireland to attack in a rough ground situation. Doris is generously rewarded.

Six passes later, starting with Ryan’s pass from the scrum-half, Hansen scored:

It seemed fitting that this smooth movement decided a brutal encounter that pitted two distinct styles against each other. Ireland’s ball movement is its main strength. They missed a few chances to outflank the Springboks blitz, which will give Sexton and Andy Farrell something to aim for.

While confirming Erasmus’ point that Test matches run on the best margins, this 10-minute passage also underlined that Ireland are in good form in all areas of the game.

They are also determined to improve. What a year they have ahead of them.

Match images from Amazon Prime

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