New Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip tried to shoulder the blame after his debut as leader ended in a 16-12 defeat to South Africa at the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland were 12-3 up, thanks to four Jonathon Sexton penalties, when Heaslip was sin-binned for collapsing a driving maul in the 43rd minute of Saturday’s game.
The Springboks scored 10 points while Heaslip was off the pitch and never relinquished their control of the game on his return.
Ireland never scored again as a Ruan Pienaar try and eight points from Pat Lambie secured the victory.
Heaslip said: “We started well in the first half and built up a good lead. We came out in the second half and as captain I should lead by example, but being yellow-carded wasn’t a good example.
“I put my hand up straight away when we came in afterwards. I’m a better servant on the field than off it.”
Heaslip admitted the second-half South African dominance was a chastening experience.
He added: “We were a little bit frustrated we weren’t further ahead at half-time. They were quite clever about how they played the game when they had the ball. I don’t know how many opportunities we had.
“But we were still very confident and focused on what we had to do. We knew they’d have a purple patch, but felt we could keep our momentum.”
Ireland have now lost five test games in a row, including that 60-0 defeat in New Zealand last June.
Coach Declan Kidney admitted: “The last game in the summer was unacceptable. This is a step forward in terms of bringing guys through, but we’re here to win matches.
“That’s what we get judged on and that’s what we have to do. You don’t pull on the jersey to come second.
“They got better field position and then started their mauling game.
“They smothered the ball for long periods of time and then we didn’t get fast ball when we were in the positions we wanted to be in.
“We lost the game, but four new guys won caps and they’ll gain from this experience.
“This is a tough learning curve and we need to get something out of the match against Argentina here in a fortnight’s time.”
“We have good players here now so we just need to learn from it, there’s a little bit of experience that we need as well too.
“There’s a lot of inexperience there and I think a lot of them stood up and it’s about being able to do that week in, week out. We’ll have to see how guys prepare after this match and then pick the best team for next week.
Ed Sheeran’s new album includes traditional Irish songs