VIDEO: 'This one was right up there'
REACTION: Ireland moved to the brink of the World Cup quarterfinals by beating reigning champions South Africa 13-8 in a low-scoring but thoroughly absorbing match at the Stade de France on Saturday.
The world’s No.1 ranked team showed they have what it takes to win the World Cup for the first time as they produced a statement victory.
“We’ve had some big wins in the pool stages [of the World Cup] before,” Ireland captain Johnny Sexton said.
“That’s right up there when you play against the reigning champions.
“It was incredibly tough but we fronted up.
We’ve got to make it count now.
“We got some time off this week,” he said, adding: “We must regroup with the bye week and make sure we do the business against Scotland.”
Coach Andy Farrell said his players’ “resilience” stood out for him in Ireland’s hugely impressive win over defending champions South Africa in Saturday’s no-holds-barred World Cup Pool B match.
The Irish were on the back foot for much of the second half, but a mix of poor kicking at goal by Manie Libbok and sterling Irish defence saw the top-ranked team secure a win that puts them on the brink of the last eight.
Neither Farrell nor Sexton saw the victory as a statement win as the Irish seek to finally move beyond the quarterfinals in a World Cup, and even win it.
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Farrell preferred to focus on his team’s mental strength they showed as they extended their record Test-winning run to 16.
“Our resilience – which has been really good of late – stood out most for me,” said Farrell.
“That was a proper game, a traditional Test that had everything – with ebbs and flows and ups and downs.
“What also impressed me was how we stayed on point mentally, I thought that was fantastic.”
Farrell, who has put the sceptics in their place from the early days of his reign after taking over following the 2019 World Cup, said the players had kept their cool as the pressure was piled on.
“The game was never going to be perfect,” he said.
“The first half we got the rub of the green for position but we did not capitalise on that.
“The second half it was the reverse but we kept our heads and getting a couple of penalties at the end is a real plus of our performance.”
Farrell said he was delighted that his players did not overreact and stayed in the zone when decisions went against them.
“I think as the competition goes on we need to be better, there were a few bits of inaccuracies,” he said.
“But we were again able to find a way out of the trouble.
“We have got very good at not being too emotional and staying on task.
“Playing like that in the pool stage serves us well.”