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U20 Rugby World Championships: Heavyweight Boks too strong for gutsy Ireland

By John Fallon

Ireland 26 South Africa 42: The Irish U-20 side continued to improve last night but just how far they need to go to match the global heavyweights was rammed home by a Baby Boks side that matched an awesome pack with a riveting backline.

The fact that Ireland scored 26 points — Andrew Conway got two fine tries — and that they competed on parity for long periods up front augurs well but, as England showed on Friday, mistakes at this stage are ruthlessly punished.

Mike Ruddock and his men will now need to quickly turn their attention to their third pool game in eight days against Scotland.

South Africa led 27-19 at the end of an opening half where at times the Baby Boks threatened to run away with the game.

Ireland needed a good start and they got it from the superb Conway who broke from deep and while South Africa scrambled back they conceded a penalty and James McKinney gave Ireland a 3-0 lead after two minutes.

But the power of the Boks was immediately obvious on the restart as they blasted through the Irish defence for centre Francois Venter to finally touchdown after a series of bursts.

Johan Goosen converted and an exchange of penalties between the two kickers left South Africa 13-9 ahead at the end of the first quarter.

The Boks started to turn the screw when Venter crossed for his second try after a wonderful inside pass from flanker Nizaam Carr under the posts.

McKinney responded with another penalty but then South Africa lock Eben Etzebeth burst through the tackles of Niall Annett and Tadhg Furlong for their third try after the Irish scrum had been turned over on their own 22.

But Ireland refused to die — they got a penalty at the next scrum after South Africa buckled — and then Conway produced a moment of sheer magic to skip through a series of tackles to score a magnificent try under the posts which McKinney converted.

Ireland stayed in touch for the first 15 minutes of the second half before South Africa extended their lead with a huge Goosen drop goal from just inside halfway, ten metres in from the left touchline.

Winger Wandile Mjekevu sealed the win and the bonus point for South Africa coming up to the hour after Carr was again the creator.

Ireland responded well as Conway went over for his third try of the tournament, Paddy Jackson adding the points, only for South African captain Arno Botha to score in the dying moments.

Ireland: T O'Halloran (Galwegians) A Conway (Blackrock), B Macken (Blackrock), JJ Hanrahan (UL Bohemians), C Gilroy (Dungannon); J McKinney (Queen’s University), K Marmion (University of Wales Institute Cardiff); J Tracy (UCD), N Annett (Belfast Harlequins, capt), T Furlong (Clontarf); M Kearney (Clontarf), D Qualter (Buccaneers); J Murphy (Lansdowne), A Conneely (Corinthians), E McKeon (Galwegians). Replacements: I Henderson (Queen’s University) for Qualter, 45; L Marshall (Ballymena) for Hanrahan, 51; D Doyle (UCD) for Annett, 54; P Jackson (Dungannon) for McKinney, 56; P Du Toit (UCD) for Marmion, 66; C Carey (Ballymena) for Furlong, 66; D Gallagher (Dublin University) for Kearney, 71.

Referee: J White (New Zealand).

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England beat Scotland 39-18 and New Zealand ran in 14 tries as they walloped Wales 92-0 in yesterday’s other games.

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