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Ireland come out on top of bruising clash with South Africa

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Top-ranked Ireland claimed a 13-8 statement victory over defending champions South Africa in a high-octane heavyweight World Cup clash that lived up to the hype at a sweltering Stade de France on Saturday.

Andy Farrell’s side prevailed with a Mack Hansen try, five points from the boot of captain Johnny Sexton and another three from the tee by Jack Crowley to stay top of Pool B on 14 points, four ahead of second-placed South Africa, with their 16th consecutive test win.

Cheslin Kolbe scored a try for the Springboks but Manie Libbok only had a penalty to show for his efforts, missing a conversion and another three pointer as Faf de Klerk also missed a couple of long-range penalties, leaving his team beaten at the World Cup for the first time in nine matches.

Scotland and Tonga, who both lost their opening game in Pool B, face each other in Nice on Sunday.

South Africa came into the contest with a 7-1 split between forwards and backs on the bench and Ireland boldly looked to keep the ball in play as much as possible, going for the corner instead of kicking early penalties.

South Africa got onto the scoreboard first in a brutal start with a Libbok penalty as huge tackles and collisions drew oohs and aahs from the 78 542 crowd.

Ireland wasted chances with three disastrous line outs but came close when Hugo Keenan ghosted past a tackler only to be brought down a couple of metres from the line.

‘BOMB SQUAD’ DEFUSED

Ireland looked to keep the ball in play, testing their opponents’ rush defence, but made too many handling errors at first.

A long possession spell, however, was rewarded when Sexton danced his way into the South Africa defence, bringing the ball near the posts after a classic one-two with centre Robbie Henshaw before Hansen finished it off on the right flank after being set up by James Lowe.

It was the first try the Springboks had conceded at a World Cup since their semi-final against Wales in 2019. South Africa made three changes to their forwards line, bringing in part of their ‘bomb squad’ early in the second half, and it immediately paid off as they won their scrum and Kolbe darted over to give his team the lead.

However, Sexton put the Irish back in front with a routine penalty and Libbok failed again from 40 metres after Ireland were sanctioned at the scrum.

With four minutes left, Ireland won another penalty in front of the posts, triggering a huge clamour from their supporters who were fired up by an ecstatic Hansen.

Crawley slotted it home and Ireland withstood a last South Africa charge to all but secure a quarter-final clash against the runners-up of Pool A – likely to be three-time champions New Zealand – while the Springboks could face hosts France.

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