Emerging Ireland manage to fend off a late-charging Pumas team

The 19-year-old James Culhane scores brace of tries in an excellent individual performance

Pumas 24 Emerging Ireland 28

Emerging Ireland have beaten the Pumas at Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein. The satisfaction in victory is more likely to come in the shape of individual contributions rather than the collective performance, the latter riddled with mistakes, lacking in composure and concentration, particularly in the second half.

Emerging Ireland led 28-12 at one point but had to withstand the fast-finishing Currie Cup champions, the Pumas and were in truth a little fortuitous to do so. It would have been a great deal less fraught if the visitors had been a little more precise in the taking opportunities.

Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam-winning number eight, 19-year-old James Culhane had a superb game in every aspect, embellished with a brace of tries while his team-mate from that triumph Chay Mullins was another try scoring contributor to excel. Antoine Frisch provided moments of attacking class in the centre, while Cormac Izuchukwu was outstanding.


Roman Salanoa, Diarmuid Barron, and in the second half, Scott Penny came up with some big plays. Ireland head coach Simon Easterby acknowledged the performance shortcomings. “We offered them chances to stay in the game with our discipline but credit to the players they stuck to the task as best they could. We took air our of our own tyres in the way that we let them back in the game.

“There will be lots of things we need to fix but there was a bit of pride in what we did in the end to get the win.”

Ireland took the lead on five minutes, the Pumas threw a couple of wild passes, Antoine Frisch latched on to the loose ball, rode several tackles, and fed Cian Prendergast. The Ireland captain, who went on to have a good game, appeared to have scored but was ruled to have been grounded short.

The pack hammered around the fringes and then when the point of attack was moved wider, fullback Mullins’ cut back against the grain to touch down.

James Culhane was next to cross the Pumas’ line after a clever switchback and then Jake Flannery demonstrated both an eye for a gap and superb acceleration to score Ireland’s third try, the outhalf converted all three to push the visitors out to a 21-0 lead after just 16 minutes.

The Pumas responded powerfully, using their superior heft up front and piggybacking on Irish indiscipline to score tries through number eight André Fouché and hooker Eduan Swart. Ireland wasted a couple of try scoring chances before halftime, a composite of poor decision-making and execution.

Easterby replaced the frontrow and captain Cian Prendergast to inject some energy. Culhane crossed for his second try in the 52nd minute, Cormac Izuchukwu and Mullins combining with the initial breach with the number eight on hand to power through a couple of last-ditch tackles.

Flannery’s converted to make it 28-12 but if the visitors thought they had subdued the Pumas they were quickly and ruthlessly disabused of that notion, centre Sebastiaan de Klerk grabbed a brace of tries in five minutes, the second an excellent individual effort.

Ireland continued to make basic mistakes and yet another turnover could have seen them forfeit the victory were it not for the sharp thinking of replacement scrumhalf Ben Murphy, who managed to deflect what would have been a try scoring pass backwards and into touch.

The visitors survived to the final whistle and will go forward to Sunday’s final game of the tour against the Cheetahs knowing that they will need a much better performance to conclude the tour unbeaten.

Scoring sequence

5 mins: Mullins try, Flannery conversion, 0-7; 10: Culhane try, Flannery conversion, 0-14; 16: Flannery try, Flannery conversion, 0-21; 19: Fouché try, 5-21; 29: Swart try, de Beer, 12-21. Halftime: 12-21. 52: Culhane try, Flannery conversion, 12-28; 59: de Klerk try, 17-28; 64: de Klerk try, de Beer conversion, 24-28.

Emerging Ireland: C Mullins (Connacht); E McIlroy (Ulster), A Frisch (Munster), C Forde (Connacht), A Smith (Leinster); J Flannery (Ulster), M McDonald (Ulster); C Reid (Ulster), D Barron (Munster), R Salanoa (Munster); C Izuchukwu Ulster), B Deeny (Leinster); C Prendergast (capt), S Penny (Leinster), J Culhane (Leinster). Replacements: D Tierney-Martin (Connacht) for Barron 48 mins; J Wycherley (Munster) for Reid 48 mins; S Illo (Connacht) for Salanoa 48 mins; D McCann (Ulster) for Prendergast 48 mins; B Murphy (Leinster) for McDonald 51 mins; T Ahern (Munster) for Deeny 64 mins; S Daly (Munster) for Mullins 73 mins

Pumas: Devon Williams; Jade Stiglingh, Sebastiaan de Klerk, W van Niekerk, E Taljaard; Tinus de Beer (capt), Chriswill September; Corne Fourie, Eduan Swart, Ig Prinsloo; Malembe Mpofu, Shane Kirkwood; Jaco Labuschagne, Kwanda Dimaza, André Fouché. Replacements: Givan Snyman for September 60 mins Etienne Janeke for C Fourie 61 mins; PJ Jacobs for Swart 61 mins; Simon Raw for Prinsloo 61 mins; Franna Kleinhans for Fouché 64 mins; Diego Apollis for Stiglingh 64 mins; Anele Lungisa for Dimaza 67 mins.

Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni

Yellow card: S Kirkwood (Pumas) 13 mins.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer