First start for Furlong against Springboks
Published 22/06/2016 | 00:00
Defeat was tough to take but it was an exciting start for Tadhg Furlong as he quickly got up to the speed of international rugby on Saturday.
In another rousing test, this time in Johannesburg, Ireland succumbed to three tries in the closing 15 minutes, eventually losing out 32-26 to South Africa to tie the test series at one win each.
This makes Saturday's final game one of huge significance, with the Irish still on course to win a test series on foreign soil for the first time.
Ireland will be disappointed with the finish, but tiring bodies no doubt feeling the affects of high altitude coupled with having played some 60 minutes with 14 players in their historic victory seven days earlier - and 13 for ten minutes - allowed the South Africans to finish strongest.
While the Boks were outstanding in that second-half, many of the Irish players still performed excellently, making the home side work very hard for their eventual victory.
Furlong, winning his seventh cap, his first from the start, looked comfortable despite being confronted by 'The Beast', one of the top scrummagers in international rugby. For the first scrum the Irish front row drove the Boks pack backwards, winning their first penalty which Paddy Jackson kicked.
This was the biggest test of Furlong's fledgling career and no more daunting place than Elm Park to make his international debut.
The Horeswood native never flinched though, as he was solid in the scrum while also offering so much around the pitch.
This was amply demonstrated for Ireland's second-half try when he played a key role.
Having conceded a try minutes earlier, Ireland laid siege inside the Boks '22, with Furlong getting forward to block an attempted clearance and being held up just short of the line.
From the resulting penalty, Ireland went for touch, with Jamie Heaslip getting over from the resulting line-out and drive.
This was typical of Furlong's all-action display before his aching body was called ashore after 60 minutes.
But in his shift he will have convinced many that he is now ready to take over from the veteran Mike Ross, both at international and provincial level.
It is exciting to see the Wexford native get better with each game, turning himself into a formidable prospect for the future.