Ireland capped an incredible calendar year with a gritty 15-10 victory over South Africa in Saturday’s Guinness Series clash in Croke Park…

Speaking after the game Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll said: “It was backs to the wall stuff at the death but it was great to keep them out and to finish ’09 unbeaten was pretty sweet. 

“In the first half we hung in there but in the second half we played some great stuff, and took a cut off them. It was great the way the boys hung on at the death. You always know you’re going to get a physical game against them, but you’re not going to come on our patch and bully us here. 

“There’s so much hard work going on behind the scenes and the players and all the backroom team deserve a lot of credit. We know that we’re not then finished article but we’re happy with the direction that we’re heading.”
Ireland began strongly and were rewarded for their early dominance with a Jonathan Sexton penalty in the ninth minute after Schalk Burger infringed by playing the ball off his feet. 

The deficit sprung the Springboks into life and Burger turned hero for the visitors when he glided past the despairing defence after being released by some fast play to touch down. His idiotic celebrations clouded the grace of the move and with Morne Steyn adding the conversion it gave the World Champions a 7-3 lead. 

A superb Brian O’Driscoll break instigated an excellent period of play for Ireland as he, as well as his provincial colleague Rob Kearney particularly, made inroads into the Springbok defence. Steyn added an opportunistic drop goal in the 24th minute to extend the lead but Ireland struck back through the marauding David Wallace and Jamie Heaslip. 

Sexton kicked a penalty into the Hill 16 end of the ground to reduce the deficit to four points and the scoreline remained the same until the interval as Steyn missed two testing kicks before the interval. 

Trailing 10-6, the second half continued where the first half left off but Steyn missed his third successive penalty in the 44th minute. With Kearney displaying superb composure under the high ball and substitute Gordon D’Arcy making a series of powerful bursts, it came as little surprise when Ireland’s dominance from the restart was rewarded with a penalty. 

Out-half Sexton’s tenth successful kick in a row in international rugby landed straight throught the posts after a high tackle by Steyn on O’Driscoll to reduce the South African lead to a single point after 48 minutes. 

On 51 minutes a Sexton penalty edged the hosts into a two point, 12-10, lead. He could have extended the lead on the hour but the Leinster man’s kick sliced wide, but he did extend the lead to five points with his fifth penalty in the 65th minute after some excellent play from Paul O’Connell. 

And more outstanding forward play at the breakdown in the 74th minute earned Ireland another penalty, but Sexton’s effort fell wide. Though Ireland held the advantage, the game hung on a knife-edge as the clock ticked down.

Some late Springbok pressure wasn’t enough and a wonderfully brave O’Driscoll tackle in injury time helped earn his nation a deserved win to end an outstanding year for Irish rugby on a high. 

IRELAND SCORERS: Jonathan Sexton (5 penalties) 

SOUTH AFRICA SCORERS: Schalk Burger (1 try), Morne Steyn (1 penalty, 1 conversion) 


15: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster)
14: Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)
13: Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) CAPTAIN
12: Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster) / Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster) 24
11: Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
10: Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
9: Tomas O’Leary (Dolphin/Munster)

1: Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
2: Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster)
3: John Hayes (Bruff/Munster)
4: Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster)
5: Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster)
6: Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster) / Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster) ht
7: David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster)
8: Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster)

REPLACEMENTS NOT USED: Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster), Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster) 


15: Zane Kirchner (Blue Bulls)
14: JP Pietersen (Sharks)
13: Jaque Fourie (Lions)
12: Wynand Olivier (Blue Bulls) / Jean de Villiers (Munster) 63
11: Bryan Habana (Blue Bulls)
10: Morne Steyn (Blue Bulls) / Ruan Pienaar (Sharks) 61
9: Fourie du Preez (Blue Bulls)

1: Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks) / CJ van der Linde (Leinster) 43-48
2: John Smit (Sharks) CAPTAIN
3: BJ Botha (Ulster) / Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks) 48
4: Andries Bekker (Western Province) / Dewald Potgieter (Blue Bulls) 62-68
5: Victor Matfield (Blue Bulls)
6: Heinrich Brussow (Cheetahs)
7: Schalk Burger (Western Province)
8: Danie Rossouw (Blue Bulls)

REPLACEMENTS NOT USED: Francois Hougaard (Blue Bulls), Jean Deysel (Sharks)

REFEREE: Nigel Owens (WRU)