Ireland signalled their intent for the season ahead as they ran four classy tries past South Africa to send Jake White's men spiralling out of a windswept Dublin.
GUINNESS AUTUMN TEST: Saturday, November 11
IRELAND 32 SOUTH AFRICA 15, Lansdowne Road (Att: 43,000)
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Andrew Trimble, David Wallace, Marcus Horan, Shane Horgan; Cons: Ronan O'Gara 3; Pens: O'Gara 2
South Africa: Tries: Francois Steyn, Bryan Habana; Con: Andre Pretorius; Pen: Pretorius
Eddie O'Sullivan's men ran riot in the first half to launch the Guinness Autumn Test Series with a crushing 32-15 victory over South Africa. The win was only Ireland's third in 18 meetings with the 'Boks, following on from the successes in 1965 and 2004.
The Triple Crown holders, with a settled line-up, entered the match as red-hot favourites and fully justified the tag with a blistering display that cut the outclassed 'Boks to pieces. Tries from Andrew Trimble, David Wallace, Marcus Horan and Shane Horgan did the damage.
At times in the first half they looked unstoppable with Trimble, Horgan, Gordon D'Arcy and captain Brian O'Driscoll turning on the style to leave the visitors chasing shadows. Ronan O'Gara controlled the game to good effect from out-half and kicked 12 points, while up front, the monster touring pack was dismantled by the Irish.
The home side found less space in the second half, which saw Francois Steyn and Bryan Habana cross for South Africa, but they were already out of sight before Horgan's late try gift-wrapped the result.
South Africa wore replicas of their original 1906 jersey, with no sponsor's logo, to commemorate a centenary of Springbok rugby, but it was not a performance to honour their proud history. In two personal milestones, skipper John Smit equalled Gary Teichmann's record of 36 games as captain and also became the first Springbok to make 40 consecutive appearances.
But otherwise the 28-year-old Sharks hooker - the only survivor from the 17-12 defeat in Dublin two years ago - will want to forget his side's performance as quickly as possible. The Springboks' experimental line-up - coach White left ten first choice players at home - included three new caps in Bevin Fortuin, Jaco Pretorius and Steyn.
Try-machine Habana played his first Test match at outside centre and Ireland took full advantage of their opponents' lack of experience. It looked very different at the start, however, as breaks from Fortuin and Ricky Januarie swept South Africa deep into Irish territory before Andre Pretorius missed with a drop goal.
But the Cats number 10 made amends by nailing a penalty moments later as the tourists capitalised on their impressive opening - only to then concede the opening try. Ireland surged forward and won a scrum 10 metres out, which they used to bring Trimble in from the left wing and the powerful Ulster youngster burst through the Springbok midfield and crossed. O'Gara converted to give the home side a 7-3 lead.
South Africa set off on a 10-metre rolling maul in the 18th-minute but Pretorius spilt the ball forward and Ireland capitalised with a huge kick from O'Gara that pinned the tourists close to their line.
Pretorius attempted to clear from the lineout but only found Trimble, who set up a promising move which was halted when O'Gara ran back into the forwards. The Munster out-half had won a penalty, however, which he sent between the uprights.
Trimble began the move that led to Ireland's second try in the 24th-minute, with the Ulster winger breaking through several tackles before recycling. Quick hands saw the ball spun right where Ireland had numbers and Horgan drew his man before supplying the scoring pass to Wallace, who raced in behind the posts.
Ireland should have added their third try shortly afterwards but Horgan opted to go it alone even though D'Arcy had looped around him and was available for a pass. D'Arcy, who claimed the man-of-the-match gong, was making ground in the midfield and one lung-busting run from Paul O'Connell drew a mighty roar from the Lansdowne faithful.
Stormers centre Jean de Villiers relieved the pressure by shrugging off a tackle from O'Gara and he made 30 yards before being hauled to the ground. South Africa went on to win a five-metre scrum, but number 8 Pierre Spies was smashed into the ground by Wallace and Denis Leamy when he broke from the back of the set-piece and Ireland were awarded a penalty.
Horgan powered through Habana as the Irish staged a fresh attack which nearly resulted in a try for Trimble in the corner. Some desperate cover defence from Jaco Pretorius kept him out but the ball was kept alive and Munster prop Horan surged over from close range, with O'Gara converting for a 22-3 buffer.
...Marcus Horan celebrates his try at the South Terrace end...
D'Arcy nearly threaded his way through as Ireland raced out of the blocks for the second half, but South Africa won a turnover and prop CJ van der Linde made an unlikely clearance with his right boot.
Pretorius missed a long range penalty as his miserable evening continued and Trimble threatened in the left corner only for referee Paul Honiss to rule O'Driscoll's pass forward.
Ireland maintained the pressure, however, with Horgan charging into space and O'Gara taking the move on until Honiss penalised South Africa for interfering at the breakdown. O'Gara landed the subsequent penalty and when Pretorius kicked the ball out on the full, they were able to launch a fresh attack which was halted when Horgan was hauled down.
Ireland though were at panic stations when Danie Roussouw burst through and Steyn crossed in the corner.
Habana showed his finishing skills in a remarkable solo try, but Ireland crushed any fightback hopes the 'Boks had with a late try from Horgan, brilliantly teed up by a maurading run from Girvan Dempsey and a lovely inside pass from O'Driscoll, and O'Gara converted to complete a memorable victory.
TIME LINE: 3 minutes - South Africa penalty: Andre Pretorius - 0-3; 5 mins - Ireland try: Andrew Trimble - 5-3; conversion: Ronan O'Gara - 7-3; 22 mins - Ireland penalty: Ronan O'Gara - 10-3; 24 mins - Ireland try: David Wallace - 15-3; conversion: missed by Ronan O'Gara - 15-3; 39 mins - Ireland try: Marcus Horan - 20-3; conversion: Ronan O'Gara - 22-3; Half-time - Ireland 22 South Africa 3; 65 mins - South Africa try: Francois Steyn - 22-8; conversion: missed by Andre Pretorius - 22-8; 73 mins - Ireland penalty: Ronan O'Gara - 25-8; 74 mins - South Africa try: Bryan Habana - 25-13; conversion: Andre Pretorius - 25-15; 76 mins - Ireland try: Shane Horgan - 30-15; conversion: Ronan O'Gara - 32-15; Full-time - Ireland 32 South Africa 15
Ireland: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Brian O'Driscoll (capt), Gordon D'Arcy, Andrew Trimble; Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Rory Best, John Hayes, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell, Neil Best, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.
Replacements used: Simon Easterby for N Best (61 mins), Geordan Murphy for Trimble, Bryan Young for Horan (both 67), Isaac Boss for Stringer (75), Paddy Wallace for O'Gara, Malcolm O'Kelly for O'Connell, Frankie Sheahan for R Best (78).
South Africa: Bevin Fortuin; Jaco Pretorius, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, Francois Steyn; Andre Pretorius, Ricky Januarie; Lawrence Sephaka, John Smit (capt), CJ van der Linde, Johan Ackermann, Albert van den Berg, Danie Rossouw, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies.
Replacements used: Ruan Pienaar for Januarie (4-8 mins, blood), BJ Botha for Sephaka (half-time), Johann Muller for Ackermann (53), Jacques Cronje for Rossouw, Wynand Olivier for J Pretorius (both 73). Not used: Chiliboy Ralepelle, JP Pietersen.
Referee: Paul Honiss (New Zealand)
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