It didn’t take long for Ireland to dispel any thought that they or South Africa would be dislodged from the top two positions in Rugby World Cup Pool B as a dominant first-half performance laid the platform for their crushing 36-14 victory over Scotland at Stade de France on Saturday night.
The game was over as a contest before halftime, by which point Ireland had banked their four-try bonus point and led 26-0, and set Johnny Sexton’s team up for a repeat of their 2019 quarterfinal against New Zealand.
That game will be played in Paris on Saturday. Ireland’s win means South Africa finish second in the group, so they will play Pool A winners France at the same venue on Sunday.
There were all sorts of conspiracy theories doing the rounds before this game, one of the most bizarre being the one dreamed up by some paranoid Springbok supporters who feared the No 1 team in the world might be less than committed and might facilitate the 21 point winning margin that would knock the World Cup champions out of the competition.
CONSPIRACY THEORY BURIED WITHIN 63 SECONDS
Well that one was well and truly buried within the first 63 seconds, which was how long it took the Irish to take the lead as centre Gary Ringrose scythed through a gap going left that put wing James Lowe in at the corner flag.
Sexton missed the conversion, only his second miss in 15 attempts in the competition to that point, but the way Ireland coach Owen Fa rrell punched the air showed just tuned in and determined Ireland were.
The more realistic target for Scotland than the one that would see the Boks drop out was the eight-point win they needed to knock out Ireland and go through at the expense of their Six Nations rivals.
They remained committed to that for the rest of the first quarter, in which they dominated possession for a while, forcing Ireland to make 39 tackles against 13 by the 15th minute.
But that cued the other big Irish strength in addition to their excellent structured attack – their defence and their competitiveness at the breakdown.
It was clear that the Irish defensive wall wasn’t going to make it easy for the Scots when they did have the ball, and with their lineout woes of the Bok game consigned to history – Ireland poached two early Scottish lineouts – the 46 per cent of the first 20 minutes they spent in the Irish 22 came to nothing.
Then came the killer blow to Scottish hopes, with the Irish again looking potent running left, and Bundee Aki making the half break that created the space for fullback Hugo Keenan to go over in the 25th minute in the precise position that Lowe had touched down earlier.
Sexton converted this time and with Scotland then needing 20 without reply to make the quarterfinals, any speculation over who would advance to the quarters from this pool was just about already dead. – SuperSport.