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World Junior Championships: Ireland just lambs to the slaughter

By Ian Bransfield

Ireland 15 South Africa 57: Ireland once again came up short against South Africa last night as their hopes of claiming fifth place in this year's Junior World Cup dwindled away in north east Italy.

Having lost 46-26 against the same opposition eight days prior, Mike Ruddock's leg-weary troops were keen to redress the balance at the Stadio de Plebiscito but again they hit the skids against the ruthlessly efficient Baby Boks.

South Africa outscored Ireland by nine tries to two and look good value to beat Fiji in next Sunday's fifth place decider.

Ireland, by contrast, will need to dig deep one last time in their seventh place playoff against Wales that same day.

Fatigue is likely to be a problem, as it was last night in the intense humidity of Padova, even if Ruddock refused to use that as an excuse for his side's failings.”

“South Africa have played the same number of games as we have, so we can't really fall back on that,” he said after the final whistle.

“It was very disappointing and the players are feeling that hurt in the dressing room.

“This is a tough tournament, we were limping at times out there, but you have to dig in, and we have to react against Wales.”

South Africa were 14 points to the good after just 10 minutes.

Cornell du Preez and Wandile Mjekevu both touched down for converted tries, and the writing appeared to be on the wall for Ruddock's troops, who looked like rabbits caught in the headlights during a torrid opening spell.

South African captain Arno Botha added a third try four minutes later, and at 19-0, the game looked as good as over.

Credit to Ireland, they gradually regained composure, and James McKinney registered their first points of the half with a penalty shortly after his introduction as a blood sub for Paddy Jackson.

But the reprieve was short-lived. Mjekevu snapped up another loose-ball in midfield and the Boks clocked up another seven points.

The pressure was relentless. Tshotsho Mbovane claimed South Africa's fifth try on the half hour as Ireland continued to wilt.

By in large, Ireland were architects of their own downfall.

They slipped off tackles and coughed up possession.

Ireland's collapse, it must be said, was entirely understandable, for 14 of the starting XV had played some four days earlier against Scotland in stifling heat.

South Africa rang the changes at the break, but there was little rest bite for Ireland, and Jaco Taute skirted home for the sixth try of the night just two minutes after the restart.

Goosen converted, Mbovane added another try, Goosen converted once again.

Ireland did rally for a spell, however, and their efforts were rewarded when Galwegians flanker Eoin McKeon darted home in the corner for a deserved try.

South Africa reached the half tonne when their outstanding centre Francois Venter brushed past Ireland's exhausted defence for try number eight.

There was still time for Mbovane to make sure of his hat trick whilst Paddy Jackson pulled another score back for an Ireland team that at least battled to the end.

Ireland: T O'Halloran; A Conway, B Macken (J McKinney 48), L Marshall (A Kelly 45), A Boyle; P Jackson (J McKinney 16), K Marmion; J Tracy (F Bealham 45), N Annett (capt), T Furlong (C Carey 45); M Kearney (D Qualter 45), I Henderson; E McKeon, D Doyle, J Murphy (S Buckley 50).

South Africa: U Beyers; T Mbovane, J Taute, F Venter (P Jordaan 45), W Mjekevu; J Goosen (J Welthagen 55), P Rademan (L Jacobs 63); S Kotze, M Van Vuuren (M Mbonambi 40), N Schonert (JR Jenkinson 40); J Cook, E Etzebeth; F Kleinhans N Carr 70) , C Du Preez, A Botha (capt).

Referee: F Pastrana (Argentina)

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