Ireland earn statement win over holders South Africa

Ireland earn statement win over holders South Africa

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Mack Hansen scores Ireland's try
Mack Hansen scored the first try of the game
South Africa: (3) 8
Try: Kolbe Pen: Libbok
Ireland: (7) 13
Try: Hansen Con: Sexton Pens: Sexton, Crowley

Ireland remain in pole position to top Pool B after they beat holders South Africa in a low-scoring but riveting World Cup slugfest in Paris.

With Ireland struggling, Manie Libbok’s penalty edged South Africa ahead in the first half before Mack Hansen’s try.

Cheslin Kolbe hit back for the Boks but after Libbok failed to convert, Johnny Sexton’s penalty put Ireland ahead.

In a nail-biting finish, Ireland’s defence absorbed pressure before Jack Crowley’s penalty sealed an Irish win.

At the end of a brutal and relentless Test battle, South Africa pushed for a match-winning try, but after being repelled by a heroic defensive effort from the world’s number one side, the Irish contingent in the 78,452 Stade de France crowd greeted a famous win with thunderous acclaim.

It is Ireland’s 16th straight Test win and a major boost to their World Cup hopes having fronted up to a ferocious South African side to put themselves on the cusp of another quarter-final place.

Having beaten Scotland and Romania, South Africa remain on course to reach the last eight but this was their first defeat in nine World Cup matches and they must now regroup after being bested by one of their biggest rivals in a titanic heavyweight dust-up.

But the Springboks will rue their missed chances on a night when their unreliable goal-kicking prevented them from turning momentum in their favour.

Ireland edge first half despite early errors

This had been widely touted as the most anticipated match of the pool stage, pitting the world’s top two sides in a fascinating clash of styles: the speed and ruthlessness of the Irish attack against a mighty, parsimonious South African defence that shipped just three points in their opening two games.

While Ireland won 19-16 when the sides met in Dublin last year, it is well known that South Africa are a different beast at rugby’s global showpiece.

Boks backs coach Mzwandile Stick had said on the eve of the match that “World Cups are a different story”, and during a first half in which Ireland made a series of uncharacteristic errors, his words appeared prophetic.

Indeed, while both sides displayed early nerves, it was South Africa who benefited from a creaking Irish line-out, with Libbok’s penalty coming at the end of a move sparked by one of several Ronan Kelleher throws that missed its target.

Despite being roared on by raucous Irish support, the Grand Slam winners seemed out of sorts, the Springbok confidence growing with every ferocious hit on a green jersey and Ireland frustration deepening with every failed attempt to break the three-time champions.

While the brute of South Africa’s defence clearly unnerved their rivals, Ireland weathered the storm before momentum dramatically swung seven minutes before the interval when a brilliant carry from the in-form Bundee Aki – who earlier landed a crucial tackle on Jesse Kriel – drove his side up the pitch.

This time, they stayed patient and moved the ball smartly before a thunderous roar greeted Hansen touching down after Sexton had come within inches of scoring a superb try of his own.

The veteran fly-half nailed the conversion to put Ireland 7-3 up with the returning feelgood factor helped by Garry Ringrose’s return after passing a head injury assessment (HIA).

More to follow.

Line-ups

South Africa: Willemse; Arendse, Kriel, De Allende, Kolbe; Libbok, De Klerk; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi (capt), Du Toit, Wiese.

Replacements: Fourie, Nche, Nyakane, Kleyn, Snyman, Van Staden, Smith, Reinach.

Ireland: Keenan; Hansen, Ringrose, Aki, Lowe; Sexton (capt), Gibson-Park; Porter, Kelleher, Furlong, Ryan, Beirne, O’Mahony, Van der Flier, Doris.

Replacements: Sheehan, Bealham, Kilcoyne, Henderson, Baird, Murray, Crowley, Henshaw.

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)

Touch judges: Mathieu Raynal (France) & James Doleman (New Zealand)

TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

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