What the Irish newspapers are saying after their team’s 29-15 win at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
Irish eyes are certainly smiling this morning after a famous victory against the No 2-ranked team in the world. While the press considers the result an upset, the performance by the hosts is being trumpeted as monumental in the context of the 2015 World Cup.
The shot of fullback Rob Kearney hurdling over Bok tighthead Jannie du Plessis features prominently in all of the Sunday papers, with a couple of publications using the image to symbolise Ireland’s progress. The Sunday Times has run the shot of an airborne Kearney on their front page, while the headline ‘Squashed Boks’ leads their sports section.
In his match report, Denis Walsh says that ‘a year of escalating achievement reached a new altitude on a thunderous evening at the Aviva. South Africa came to Dublin with New Zealand’s scalp on their belt and were floored by an Irish team that refused to take a backward step’.
A dedicated double spread is led with the emphatic headline: ‘Steely Ireland beat Boks at own game’. Walsh writes that against South Africa there is no other way to win. ‘You front up or you’re blown out’.
On the adjacent page, Peter O’Reilly talks about how Ireland played down their chances before the game, and that ‘if this was a ruse, it worked beautifully. Ireland didn’t just surprise the Springboks with their ferocity and focus under pressure, they out-thought and out-fought them to deliver a victory of real substance’.
In his player ratings, O’Reilly has given most of the Ireland players seven or eight, with Kearney and flyhalf Jonny Sexton receiving nine. Bok flanker Marcell Coetzee (eight) was the only man who impressed O’Reilly on Saturday.
‘Bowe on target as Ireland stun Boks’ reads the lead in the sports section of the Sunday Independent. The purple prose flows in the next two pages, which include photographs of a leaping Kearney and a determined Rhys Ruddock en route to the tryline.
‘Schmidt outsmarts opponent,’ is the title of Neil Francis’s analysis. Like so many, Francis wonders if Schmidt and company had planned this upset all along. ‘The suspicion lingers that this was the perfect hijack,’ he writes. ‘The roosters came to town with the sound of their own propaganda ringing in their ears and were lulled into a false sense of security’.
Francis commends the Ireland coach for his preparation as well as the team’s performance given their present injury situation. He asserts that Heyneke Meyer ‘has been dwarfed intellectually by the mild-mannered and softly spoken Kiwi’. Francis adds that Schmidt has ‘the air of a headmaster and the conscience of a rattlesnake’. The same paper has handed Schmidt an 8.5 in the player and coach ratings.
Brendan Fanning hails the performance of the Ireland pack, and wonders what this type of performance means for the near future. It’s possible that the Six Nations champions could win all three of their matches this November and cap an incredible year. ‘Ireland are contemplating what would be a perfect start to their World Cup buildup. Having been careful not to mention the 2015 World Cup anywhere along the way, this result inevitably brings it all a little bit closer’.
The flying form of Kearney is accompanied by the headline, ‘Ireland take a giant leap’ in the Irish Mail on Sunday. The front page of the sports section also declares boldly: ‘Southern hemisphere scalp provides perfect platform for World Cup countdown’.
‘Just sit back and savour the ambush,’ writes Liam Heagney for the same paper. Heagney is evidently pleased with what Schmidt’s side has achieved despite the odds. ‘Sorcerer Joe Schmidt produced another emphatic show of alchemy, conjuring up a magnificent blueprint to out-box the Boks and shake up the established world order 10 months out from the 2015 World Cup’.
Former Ireland prop Peter Clohessy writes in today’s Mail that Ireland were anything but fortunate to win on Saturday. The victory was hard earned. ‘The Boks were certainly off-colour, but that was because Ireland drained the life out of them. They were simply beaten into submission.’
After much debate in the buildup, most of the Irish press seem to agree that Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne have proved their worth as a midfield combination. ‘Payne and Henshaw can be the new hard core’ barks the Mail on Sunday. After Saturday’s performance, Shane McGrath believes that Schmidt will struggle to talk down his team again in the buildup to a big Test’. Of the new centre pairing, McGrath writes: ‘This was an evening that produced two powerful new weapons for Joe Schmidt’.
By Jon Cardinelli