Player Ratings: Ireland
OPINION: Ireland have secured a titanic 13-8 win over the Springboks in Paris to give themselves the best possible chance of topping Pool B at the Rugby World Cup – and earning a quarterfinal against the All Blacks.
While it was a low scoring match, there was no lack of big hits, audacious shows of skill or heart-in-mouth moments to keep fans entertained.
How did the Irish players rate in victory?
1. Andrew Porter – 7/10
Put in a big shift on both sides of the ball, lasting almost the full 80. Felt the full weight of the bomb squad in the second half, conceding a couple of penalties in the process. At least won one back of his own at the end of the third quarter. Some good counter-rucking in the final 10 minutes helped Ireland grab a turnover. Off in 75th minute.
2. Ronan Kelleher – 5
Set the early standard with a big hit on Damian Willemse from the kick-off but then couldn’t find his target with his first four line-outs. Finished with nine successes from 14 deliveries, which could have proved costly. One of a number of forwards forced to make a significant number of tackles in the first half. Off in 53rd minute.
3. Tadhg Furlong – 5
Free-kicked then penalised for early hits at the scrum. Put in one stinging tackle on Eben Etzebeth. Like Porter, wasn’t able to weather the storm brought by the Springboks’ second-half replacements – but scrummaging against a fresh South African pack is no easy feat. Off in 64th minute.
4. Tadhg Beirne – 7
Ferocious on defence and carried resolutely. Made a good steal at the breakdown but then rushed the delivery to Doris who dropped the pass. Missed RG Snyman when the big Springbok charged down the middle of the park.
5. James Ryan – 6
Not the most impactful performance from the experienced lock. Worked tirelessly to disrupt the breakdown but wasn’t as prominent on defence or with the ball in hand. Off in 53rd minute.
6. Peter O’Mahony – 7
The safest pair of hands at the line-out. Great work at the set-piece early in the second half saw Ireland win a throw-in. Tackled his heart out. Off in 64th minute.
7. Josh van der Flier – 8
Led the way on defence in the first half. Made a big carry in the lead-up to Ireland’s first try of the night to generate some important go-forward. The only starting Ireland forward to take all his lineout deliveries. Forced a breakdown penalty shortly before halftime.
8. Caelan Doris – 7
Good work at the first lineout to snare the ball back after a steal from South Africa. Dropped the ball centimetres from the line to end a promising Ireland attack. Couldn’t shift his opposite number when Jasper Wiese latched onto the ball. Pinged at the maul. Lifted his carrying game in the second half and finished as Ireland’s top tackler.
9. Jamison Gibson-Park – 8
Dealt well with plenty of pressure from the big South African forwards. Put in a strong shift on defence around the breakdown (helped James Lowe get Eben Etzebeth off the ground) and gave his teammates good service. Off in 66th minute.
10. Johnny Sexton – 7
Ireland collectively held their breath when Sexton was left clutching his wrist following an attempted tackle on Damian de Allende – but the experienced No 10 played on. Moments later he was weaving some magic inside South Africa’s 22 to orchestrate some space out wide for Ireland to profit. Couldn’t quite unlock the South African defence but certainly forced it to work hard. Hit double figures on defence. Off in 73rd minute.
11. James Lowe – 7
Made a couple of errors but likewise made some key contributions in the win. Forced one breakdown penalty and also won a turnover on his own tryline. On the other end of the spectrum, an awful kick from inside Ireland’s in-goal after some good defence from his teammates handed South Africa a prime attacking position. Quick hands gave Mack Hansen the space he needed to dot down for Ireland’s opening score. Got in underneath Etzebeth when the towering Springboks lock was charging towards the line and with a bit of help from his teammates, was able to force a turnover.
12. Bundee Aki – 9
Defended superbly close to Ireland’s try line. Made a scorching break near the half-hour mark, busting through Willemse and racing 50 metres up to the field to give his team some excellent territory. Popped up on the left wing moments later for another significant gain. Made ground with almost every carry – 14 of them! Copped a penalty in the second half for sealing off the breakdown but won a turnover of his own with time almost up on the clock.
13. Garry Ringrose – 8
Made an excellent covering tackle on Jesse Kriel to prevent a likely South African try. His excellent triple pump pass released Keenan down the wing in the early stages of the game. Rushed out of the line to put a big hit on De Allende at the beginning of the second quarter but was bounced to the ground and left the field for an HIA. Returned to the field late in the half and immediately – with time almost up on the clock – made two big hits with Ireland eventually getting rewarded at the breakdown.
14. Mack Hansen – 6
Bravely leapt into the air to take a few high balls – and was immediately punished by the South African defenders every time he returned to terra firma. Grabbed the first try of the night – but came oh-so-close to almost running dead.
15. Hugo Keenan – 6
Tough to bring to deck when he was given space. Made a brilliant break early in the match down the left-hand flank, cutting between two defenders to get within five metres of the try line. Didn’t have the best of luck under the high ball but always looked interested.
16. Dan Sheehan – 5
On in 53rd minute. Copped a couple of penalties – including one of the final two that could have killed the win for Ireland. Wasn’t able to get his running game going in his World Cup debut but hit his two lineouts.
17. Dave Kilcoyne – N/A
On in 75th minute.
18. Finlay Bealham – 6
On in 64th minute. Added genuine impact and held up his side of the scrum well.
19. Iain Henderson – 6
On in 53rd minute. Toiled tirelessly.
20. Ryan Baird – N/A
On in 64th minute.
21. Conor Murray – 7
On in 66th minute. Immediately won a breakdown penalty and made one big tackle to shut down a Springboks attack.
22. Jack Crowley – N/A
On in 73rd minute. Nailed one (admittedly straightforward) crucial penalty.
23. Robbie Henshaw – 6
On in 22nd minute as a temporary replacement for Ringrose and then permanently in the 64th minute. Put in an unusual cross-field kick. Tackled well but didn’t feature with the ball.
By Tom Vinicombe, @RugbyPass