One of the great battles in rugby history concludes with the South African forward pushing hard over the Irish try line and time running out. After half an hour of siege, the XV del Trébol resists, the adorable loser, defeated in its seven World Cup quarterfinals. This Saturday he assumed his role as favorite in Paris, that of a team that leads the world ranking after winning its last 16 games, knocking down the current champion, who fell with all the honors at the Stade de France, which attended a worthy rehearsal for a grand finale.
The two most physical teams in the world – with the permission of France – showed that low scoring is not incompatible with beauty. The duel of the impacts and the strong forwards was sung. The Irish 10, Johnny Sexton, did not shy away from it, who renounced the breadth and sent his troops to clash in the central axis, like invaders hitting the entrance to a fortress. Without arguments to discuss this initiative, South Africa appealed to its defensive waist, that elasticity to retreat without breaking.
Thus he took over the tokuh, turning the seemingly routine exercise of putting the oval into play from the sidelines into a visit to the dentist for the Irish, who were gaining territory but unable to retain possession. And a visit to the South African noble zone ended in a counterattack by the Springboks, who opened the scoring with a comfortable kick from Manie Libbok. Questioned about his lack of aim – his team came into the game with a 10 of 18 in shots from sticks – he ran out the minute in regulation and secured the shot.
The pressure from South Africa began to undermine the confidence of the Trebol XV, confined to their field due to their mistakes on the wing. The Springboks had the coup de grace in a charge by their forwards, who reached the height of the posts but could not secure possession ahead of the imminent try. Ireland saved the score with an aggressive defense and maintained their attacking plan. When he returned to the South African zone 22, he was loyal to it. No kicks or sticks; ball to the touch already for the test. Sexton was centimeters from the goal line, but it was Mack Hansen who put an end to the rival contortions, taking advantage of the superiority on the right flank and transferring the green dominance to the scoreboard (3-7).
South Africa approached the match as a background exercise, with an unprecedented bench of seven forwards and only one replacement for the rear. Two armies to tackle and push scrums. Ireland came out with the lesson learned from the locker room, kicked the band wisely and stole a touch committed in the South African area, but lacked sting and returned the favor in the next set. And a missed opportunity against the champion usually carries a penalty. With their reinforcements in action, South Africa found a flaw in the Irish scrum, which they overran on two consecutive occasions towards Cheslin Kolbe’s try on the wing.
The Springboks regained the lead, but Libbok missed a simple conversion that left the Irish within one. A match between superpowers in a constant adjustment exercise, so the Irish scrum changed chips and regained its balance for a few minutes. Not only did he cover up his mistake, but he opened one on the rival platform: a penalty hit and Sexton, an infallible shooter, returned his team to the front when the hour of play was up (8-10). It was the penultimate relief for an Ireland already overwhelmed by the narrative.
Now it was South Africa that needed to change its dominance, but Libbok missed another simple kick and Faf De Klerk responded with a deflected projectile from the center of the field minutes after having crashed another against the crossbar. Ireland defended itself like a cat on its belly fighting the touch or moving the ball away with his foot while Sexton’s trot when he left the game denoted the endless blows he was carrying. It was his replacement, Jack Crowley, who sealed the victory with a routine kick after a penalty hit forced by his mistreated scrum and who celebrated on the field the failure of the last South African incursion.
In this way, the hard part of the painting is outlined. If Ireland performs in their last match against Scotland, they will win the group and face New Zealand in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, South Africa, expected to be second, will face France, a host hampered by injuries, including that of its great leader, Antoine Dupont.
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