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Ireland produced a tremendous 26-20 win over South Africa despite playing three quarters of Saturday’s clash in Cape Town with 14 men.
A Jared Payne try helped the visitors to hold a 10-3 lead following the opening exchanges but Ireland had South Africa native CJ Stander sent off midway through the first half.
The sides went in level at 13 points apiece at the break before a superb Conor Murray try regained the advantage for the Irish.
Although a Paddy Jackson mistake allowed Pieter-Steph du Toit to scramble over the line, fantastically resolute defending in general from Ireland kept the Springboks at bay and contributed hugely to the island nation's first ever Test triumph on South African soil.
Although Patrick Lambie missed an early penalty for the hosts at Newlands, Ireland largely dominated the initial stages, opening the scoring when Payne chased and touched down Luke Marshall's neat kick through.
Paddy Jackson added the conversion before responding to a successful Lambie penalty by knocking over a three-pointer of his own.
Ireland were reduced to 14 men, though, when Stander was adjudged to have recklessly charged Lambie, resulting in the home out-half’s replacement with Elton Jantjies.
After Jantjies had kicked a simple penalty, his fine short pass allowed Lwazi Mvovo to race through and secure the lead for the Boks, with Jantjies converting.
Ireland faced the remainder of the half with just 13 representatives, with Robbie Henshaw shown a yellow card for a late, high tackle on Jantjies in the lead up to Mvovo’s score.
However, a superb drop-goal from Jackson, magnificent defending and a foot in touch from would-be try scorer Francois Louw ensured that the undermanned Irish went in on level terms at the interval.
Following a powerful Ireland maul at the beginning of the second period, a neat pass from Payne was burst onto by Murray, who recovered from being grounded to dive over for a try. Jackson’s conversion left seven between the sides.
Following impressive defending from the away side, led by captain Rory Best, Jackson had the chance to extend Ireland’s lead but struck the upright with a long-range penalty.
The Belfastite made up for his narrow miss with a subsequent strike but, more or less immediately after the restart, threw a pass straight to du Toit, who waltzed in for a try that was converted by Jantjies.
However, Jackson’s central role continued with a successful penalty that left Ireland six points in front with four minutes remaining.
Irish nerves were left shattered, as the Springboks pushed to the death, but when the television official confirmed that a trio of green shirts had shoved JP Pietersen into touch, the win was sealed.
The victory will be go down as one of the greatest in Ireland’s history, particularly given that almost an hour of it was played with 14 men, and 10 minutes with just 13.
Joe Schmidt‘s troops march on to next Saturday’s second Test at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park with a series triumph in sight.