Despite constantly putting pressure on the Irish side, errors crept in whenever they ventured into the visitors’ 22m area, resulting in lost possession and missed scoring opportunities.
The opening half proved to be an intense battle, with the Baby Boks dominating possession and territory. They displayed impressive interplay between their backs and forwards, establishing a stronghold in the Irish half.
In the initial 10 minutes, it seemed like the South Africans would hold their own against the physical Irish team. They deprived their opponents of ball possession and effectively shut them down with a strong rush defense.
Credit must also be given to the Irish for their resilient defense in the first half. Every time it appeared that the Junior Boks would breach their line, the Irish found a way to scramble with tackles and prevent the hosts from scoring.
Late in the first half, Ireland managed to break the deadlock. Just as South Africa seemed poised to secure the first points of the game, fate intervened.
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The two teams traded blows until winger James Nicholson found space after a well-executed Irish attack, aided by a precise kick from flyhalf Sam Prendergast.
Nicholson scored his second try in the second half, courtesy of another accurate kick from Prendergast. This try effectively sealed the game for Ireland.
The Irish team displayed patience and composure in their buildup before the flyhalf’s deft kick found the hands of his left winger, who crossed the try line untouched.
Scrumhalf Imad Khan’s converted try under the posts leveled the score (7-7) shortly after halftime. The brilliant run from Regan Izaks, setting up Khan for the try, seemed poised to ignite a surge in the Junior Springboks’ performance, allowing them to capitalize on their opportunities.
However, the Irish soon established dominance in their set piece and physicality, overwhelming the home side.
The Irish team excelled in one-off runners off short passes, pick-and-goes around the ruck, as well as scrums and rolling mauls, ultimately outclassing South Africa.
The Junior Springboks fought valiantly throughout the tournament, and several exciting players showcased their potential for higher honors in senior teams.
Unfortunately, their physical struggles and weaknesses in the set piece, as evident in the pool matches, proved to be their downfall in the semi-finals.
It is undoubtedly a disappointing conclusion to their title run in front of their home fans. However, South Africa will have an opportunity to secure third place when they face either England or France on Friday.