10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
In his 100th appearance for Ireland, O'Gara's well-weighted cross-field kick bounced up for Bowe to raid in from the right wing for his fifth try in six Tests.
O'Gara added the conversion and although there was a touch of good fortune about it, the Corkman's long pass created another try for Kearney in the right corner, with six minutes remaining.
However, O'Gara's luck deserted him when he stepped up to try and kick Ireland level. He missed the resulting conversion, watching his kick strike the right hand post and the Springboks were able to see out the first win of their five-match tour of Ireland and the UK.
It was also the South Africans' first victory over Ireland in four visits to Dublin. Tries in each half from Juan Smith and Gio Aplon did the damage, along with 13 points from place-kickers Morne Steyn and Patrick Lambie.
Declan Kidney's men were eager to produce a performance that befitted the opening Test match at the Aviva Stadium, Irish rugby's state-of-the-art new home.
Gordon D'Arcy, on the occasion of his 50th cap, led the team out alongside Brian O'Driscoll and the mascots. A banner proudly proclaimed that 'Irish rugby is home!' while the anthems rung out around the Lansdowne Road venue.
When the action got underway, it was the injury-hit Springboks who were first to settle. Missing a raft of players, including long-time captain John Smit, the visitors used their forwards to barge into scoring range before Steyn landed his opening penalty in the sixth minute, punishing an Irish offside.
Luke Fitzgerald was a busy figure in his first appearance for Ireland since injuring his knee last November. He kicked and chased well down the left wing, and a hacked kick from his Leinster colleague Cian Healy put South Africa under pressure for the first time.
Full-back Aplon was first to the ball and while O'Driscoll was quickly on the scene to bring him down. the Ireland captain's failure to release after the tackle saw referee Nigel Owens give the 'Boks a relieving penalty.
Problems in the lineout and unforced errors in open play ruined some good approach work by Ireland, and Peter de Villiers' side continued to have the better of possession.
They moved further ahead in the 18th minute courtesy of an intercept try from flanker Smith. A messy lineout left Eoin Reddan scrambling for the ball and his attempted pass to Fitzgerald was gobbled up by Smith who brilliantly covered the 65 metres to the try-line, evading Kearney's grasp in the closing yards.
Steyn's conversion made it 10-0 but Ireland's fortunes improved in the second quarter, with Jonathan Sexton firing over a penalty in the 27th minute. The out-half split the posts from the right, having missed an easier effort just minutes earlier.
His successful penalty rewarded the hosts for some positive play, as Fitzgerald and Brian O'Driscoll popped up in attack and the forwards gained ground through a series of drives.
The tempo increased for the remaining 10 minutes of the first half, with Bakkies Botha doing well to tackle David Wallace in touch and Jamie Heaslip catching his opposite number Pierre Spies with a heavy hit.
The drizzle turned into a heavy downpour, making ball-handling even more difficult. A South African attack broke down near halfway as a pass from Jean de Villiers went to ground. Bowe was lurking for an interception, but it just evaded his grasp.
The 'Boks quickly recovered to win a penalty at a scrum and Steyn sent a fine penalty over from 40-plus metres. However, an offside decision allowed Sexton close the gap back to seven points with the last kick of the half.
13-6 down at half-time, Ireland regrouped and came out for the second half in their regular jerseys, after encountering problems with the special commemorative shirts they wore from the kick-off. The heavy rain continued, and the South Africans were given an immediate chance to add to their lead.
Donncha O'Callaghan was penalised for interference in the lineout, but Steyn was wayward from the resulting kick - his first miss in 42 shots on goal in Test rugby.
Ireland started to find better field position as Aplon was pressurised into a hurried clearance and then Sexton found a terrific touch on the right. South Africa's lineout, marshalled by Matfield, was rock solid however, in a complete role reversal from the sides' most recent meeting.
The errors continued from both sides, with knock ons a regular occurrence. The greasy ball and force of the tackles saw defences reign, but a leg-pumping break from Heaslip got Ireland on the front foot, and the crowd responded.
But a shaky lineout and a fumble by D'Arcy left Ireland frustrated again, and a superb lineout maul from the 'Boks engineered a penalty for Steyn to stick over, edging the scoreline to 16-6.
Tom Court replaced the injured Tony Buckley, winning his 10th cap on his 30th birthday, and he helped win a penalty after South African hooker Bismarck du Plessis popped up in a scrum. Sexton produced his best kick of the night to get Ireland back to within a converted score.
Kidney's charges were scrambling and keeping themselves in the contest and when Habana sliced a clearance kick, Ireland had an opportunity to attack from a lineout on the South African 22. Again though the set piece did not go to plan, and then Best's flicked pass under pressure was knocked on by Ferris.
The 20-year-old Patrick Lambie came on to make his Test debut for South Africa, and his nerves were evident when he miscued a straightforward penalty attempt from in front of the posts.
Matfield and company got straight back on the attack and battered away at the Irish defence before the backs worked an opening on the left. A defensive mix-up between Reddan and Bowe allowed Zane Kirchner and Aplon to combine on a scissors move, with the latter's angled run seeing him cut inside and all the way in behind the posts.
Lambie slotted the conversion for a 23-9 advantage, and Ireland had a mountain to climb. Some constructive play from the forwards, allied to the introduction of O'Gara and Peter Stringer at half-back, sparked an improvement.
O'Gara's 69th-minute kick in behind the South African defence invited Bowe to attack the ball and a kind bounce saw it pop up for the Monaghan man to dart past a flatfooted Aplon and evade Kirchner on the way to the whitewash.
O'Gara landed the conversion and suddenly gaps began to appear in the visitors' defence. Space was exploited on the left as Heaslip led a break. He delayed his pass, with plenty of support, and the chance was lost momentarily.
Ireland kept pressing in the 22, with Healy, Best, Ferris and replacement lock Donnacha Ryan picking and driving. The hard yards were gained and with the Irish were positioned right by the posts, Stringer and O'Gara combined to put width on the ball and send Kearney over for his sixth Test try.
The home side had some great battling qualities and spirit to get back into a game that was slipping away from them. Unfortunately, O'Gara was inches away from tagging on the two points that would have levelled the game with just five minutes to go.
With Habana sin-binned in the aftermath of the try, there was still a glimmer of hope for the hard-grafting Irish. The game ebbed and flowed in the final minutes, but South Africa were able to exert more control and their forwards ran down the clock for Lambie to find touch and bring this well-contested clash to a close.
The 'Boks had done enough to warrant the victory, with Matfield, Smith and Bismarck du Plessis their standout performers.
Ireland had some good individual displays on the night, but as a collective, they failed to fire and the disappointment of this defeat will act as a spur for their remaining GUINNESS Series games against Samoa, New Zealand and Argentina.
|Ireland Score Card|
|South Africa Score Card|