It was heartbreak for the second match in a row for Ireland’s youngsters as they slipped to their second defeat in the 2011 Junior World Cup with South Africa proving just to strong, pulling away in the closing minutes for a flattering 42 – 26 win.
Mike Ruddock and his charges will again be wondering what might have been as Ireland failed to capitalise on their chances. While they have shown that they can live with the junior powerhouses of England and South Africa in terms of commitment, skill and effort, they are still missing that clinical composure as the line beckons with try scoring opportunities going begging in each half.
The Irish youngster’s had a least learnt a lesson from their poor start against England, taking the game to the South African’s in the opening minutes and were rewarded with a penalty from James McKinney. Unfortunately the Boks hit back straight from the re-start with the impressive Francois Venter slicing through the Irish midfield with alarming ease for the opening try. Johan Goosen converted.
Ireland pushed hard and should have scored a try with Eoin McKeon coming close and Conway through but failing to hold on to the ball. McKinney and Goosen swapped a couple of penalties a piece before South Africa showed Ireland how to do it with Venter slicing through for his second try and shortly after Eben Etzebeth went over after a turnover at a scrum. McKinney added his forth penalty in-between and with the score at 12 – 27 in South Africa’s favour it looked that the game might run away from Ireland.
However a fantastic piece of individual brilliance from Andrew Conway saw the Leinster youngster dance clear to score just before the break and with McKinney adding the extras the teams turned round with Ireland trailing by 8 with the scoreboard reading Ireland 19 South Africa 27.
Both teams suffered from the sapping conditions in the second half as the error count rose. Ireland should have opened the scoring following a break and cross filed chip by Conway, but an out of sorts Craig Gilroy failed to gather at his first attempt and the chance went begging. South Africa made them pay with a monster drop goal from Goosen taking the score to 19 – 30 at the end of the third quarter.
Despite this Ireland looked to have forced a change in momentum, winning midfield battles and playing the game in the Boks half. Unfortunately a lack of composure saw them lose ground through a couple of dodgy lineouts and forward passes and South Africa extended their lead to 19 – 35 with a try from Wandile Mjekevu. Game over.
Ireland plugged away and good work from Luke Marshall and Gilroy, carried on by replacement hooker David Doyle, sent Conway in for his second try of the night, which Patrick Jackson converted, but at 26 – 35 the most Ireland could hope for was a losing bonus.
That option was denied them shortly after with Arno Botha going over in the dying seconds to close out the game for the South Africans.
Final Score: Ireland 26 South Africa 42
Images from players parents below.