Autumn international: Ireland 38-3 South Africa

Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray congratulates first-half try-scorer Andrew Conway
Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray congratulates first-half try-scorer Andrew Conway
Autumn internationals
Ireland (14) 38
Tries: Conway, Ruddock, Herring, Stockdale Cons: Sexton, Carbery 2 Pens: Sexton 4
South Africa (0) 3
Pen: Jantjies

Ireland ran in four tries as they recorded their biggest winning margin over South Africa in the first of their three autumn internationals.

It was Ireland's highest points total against the Springboks and their fifth win in seven games with them in Dublin.

Andrew Conway crossed to help the Irish to a 14-0 half-time lead then Rhys Ruddock, Rob Herring and Jacob Stockdale scored late in the game.

Elton Jantjies kicked the only points for Allister Coetzee's hapless side.

Ireland lie fourth in the IRB rankings, one place above their opponents, and have now won six of the last 10 meetings between the sides.

But the gulf between Joe Schmidt's impressive side and that of Coetzee looked greater than one world ranking place on the basis of this match, the late tries giving the final scoreline an accurate reflection of the home side's dominance.

Ireland will be confident of beating Fiji and Argentina in their next two fixtures, while South Africa must regroup for games against France, Italy and Wales.

Ireland well on top

Ireland achieved their first away victory over the Springboks last summer but were keen to atone for the missed opportunity to win the three-Test series, as well as seeking to lay down a marker for a possible World Cup quarter-final in Japan in 2019.

The recommendation of South Africa as the preferred host for the 2023 World Cup in preference to France and Ireland provided the backdrop to the game but in fact the hosts were a class apart on the pitch as they secured a convincing triumph at the Aviva Stadium.

The home side were superior in every facet of the game, more than matching the physicality of the South Africans and enjoying supremacy in the scrum and the breakdown.

Turnovers were regularly produced by skipper Rory Best and fellow British and Irish Lion CJ Stander, while Iain Henderson carried the ball well, running through Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth in one memorable moment, with Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien were fearsome in the tackle.

Fly-half Johnny Sexton was unerring with the boot, setting the platform for victory with three penalties from in front of the posts in the first quarter as the indisciplined visitors paid the price for a series of infringements.

The Leinster fly-half maintained his 100% kicking record in the second half with another penalty and a conversion to take his tally to 14 points, with replacement Joey Carbery assuming the mantle late on with a couple of two-pointers of his own.

Springboks struggle under the high ball

South Africa received an aerial bombardment from Sexton and Murray as the Irish half-backs sought to take advantage of the inexperience of Coetzee's back three.

Courtnall Skosan was unable to collect Murray's high ball in the 24th minute and winger Conway was quick to take advantage of the indecision when he grabbed the loose ball and showed a fine burst of speed to dive over in the corner.

A capacity crowd had to wait until the 71st minute for Ireland's next touchdown, replacement Ruddock displaying good footwork and momentum to drive over the line after a good break involving Robbie Henshaw, Stockdale and Conway.

Another substitute, Ulster hooker Herring, rumbled over for his side's third try after a rolling maul and Stockdale - who earlier executed the tackle of the match - marked his first start on home soil by going over in the corner in the final minute.

South Africa hooker Malcolm Marx is tackled by Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong
South Africa hooker Malcolm Marx is tackled by Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong

South Africa struggles continue

South Africa's disastrous 2016, when they won just four of the 12 Tests they played, included defeats to England, Wales and Italy in their three autumn internationals last year.

Three wins over France in June were backed up by a third place in the Rugby Championship, with a record 57-0 loss to New Zealand being followed by a 25-24 defeat to the All Blacks as the two-time world champions returned to their traditional strengths of aggression and physicality.

This result will be regarded as a regressive step however for a nation which has suffered an exodus of talent to the moneyed English Premiership and Top 14 in recent years.

South Africa lost prop Coenie Oosthuizen to injury in the opening minutes as a result of a crunching tackle by debutant Bundee Aki but when they did manage to gain the upper hand in terms of territory and possession, they were let down by a lack of composure and were met by resolute Irish defence.

The Springboks showed more cohesion in an improved third quarter but their error count was too high and Jantjies' 44th-minute penalty yielded their only points.

What the coaches said

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt: "I was really worried before the game, just because of that last game South Africa had played, and the quality of their players and coaches.

"It is incredibly satisfying to go out, watch the players bring the energy and accuracy, most of the time, that they did.

"I grew up watching South Africa teams pretty dominant when they were at their peak. I don't actually think this Springbok team is very far away from that. It's satisfying, it's a relief."

South Africa coach Allister Coetzee: "Our inconsistency for me is something I'd like to see improve in a big way. The Jekyll and Hyde element, at times we play well.

"I cannot see anything like this changing in a short space of time. It's difficult to explain (the defeat); there are no positives from our side to be honest.

"It's a disappointing defeat, as a group we take full responsibility, we let ourselves down and our support back home. We just have to fight our way back from this one.

"I have to give credit to Ireland, they played tactically very, very well. We lacked patience in our kicking game, and they showed us that you have to have patience, build from penalty.

"We got off to a terrible start. The big things for me were the scrum, set-piece, and breakdown, and our discipline too. That all let us down."

Ireland: Rob Kearney; Andrew Conway, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best (capt), Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, Devin Toner; Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, CJ Stander

Replacements: Rob Herring, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Kieran Marmion, Joey Carbery, Darren Sweetnam.

South Africa: Andries Coetzee; Dillyn Leyds, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Courtnall Skosan; Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje; Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx, Coenie Oosthuizen; Eben Etzebeth (capt), Lood de Jager; Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Franco Mostert, Uzair Cassiem, Rudy Paige, Handre Pollard, Francois Venter.

Referee: Ben O'Keefe (New Zealand)