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Ireland hold on for epic win over Springboks at Rugby World Cup

By Finn Morton
Garry Ringrose of Ireland celebrates with team mate Caelan Doris after they win a penalty during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Ireland at Stade de France on September 23, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

In a thrilling showdown between the top two rugby nations in the world, Ireland made a statement with a hard-fought 13-8 win over the Springboks at Stade de France.

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There are very few events that can actually bring the sporting world to a halt, but this epic Rugby World Cup clash between two genuine contenders was certainly one of them.

With more than 78,000 people in attendance at the Parisian venue, the vibrant crowd helped set the scene for the unmissable gladiatorial battle between 46 proud rugby warriors.

Both teams were met with a deafening cry from the crowd as they made their way past the Webb Ellis Cup and out onto the field. After years of waiting, the countdown was all but over.

The Dublin-esque crowd joined in for an unforgettable rendition of ‘Ireland’s Call,’ and the Springboks followed moments later with their national anthem which was just as special.

But finally, the passionate crowd watched on in awe as Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton got the test underway by kicking the ball high into the sky on a beautiful night in Paris.

The Springboks avoided disaster after an early error. Halfback Faf de Klerk threw a wayward pass which gave Ireland an attacking opportunity deep inside the Boks’ 22.

Points Flow Chart

Ireland win +5
Time in lead
35
Mins in lead
41
44%
% Of Game In Lead
51%
63%
Possession Last 10 min
37%
0
Points Last 10 min
3

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Ireland threw phase after phase of attacking at their world-champion opponents, but play was brought to a sudden stop as referee Ben O’Keefe intervened.

Penalty Ireland after only 80 seconds. But the northern hemisphere juggernaut turned down what seemed to be a routine shot at goal by going for the corner.

It didn’t work, and that ultimately summed up Ireland’s first quarter.

With the scores still locked at nil-all, the Boks made something special out of nothing with wing Kurt-Lee Arendse charging onto a de Klerk clearance kick.

South Africa marched towards Ireland’s tryline and ended up walking away with points as playmaker Manie Libbok converted his first penalty of the night. Suddenly, the Boks led three-nil.

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Looking to hit back, Ireland didn’t do themselves any favours at the set-piece. Hooker Ronan Kelleher missed the mark on four lineouts, including two steals just five metres out from the try line.

Again, that summed up Ireland’s first quarter. They threw plenty at the Boks, but they weren’t able to convert attacking pressure into points.

But their misfortune and struggles wouldn’t last forever. Boks lock Franco Mostert was penalised just after the 30-minute mark which gave Ireland another brilliant attacking opportunity.

This one started much the same with the crowd murmuring in anticipation as the rivals took their place at the lineout along the five-metre line.

Ireland spread the ball wide and finally, it paid off for the world’s No. 1 ranked side as Australian-born wing Mack Hansen crossed for a game-changing try in the 32nd minute.

The crowd went berserk as they began to celebrate the score, but jubilation was soon replaced with relief as replays showed Hansen flirting with the deadball line as he dove for the score.

Sexton converted the try to give Ireland a 7-3 with just over five minutes to play in the first term. The test had come alive, and the crowd were loving it.

With seconds to go before the break, Ireland won a penalty and the crowd went nuts once again. Chants of “Ireland, Ireland, Ireland” echoed throughout the venue ahead of the final play.

But Ireland missed another decent opportunity but took a confidence-building lead into the break.

Test matches are often decided by small margins. Poor discipline missed tackles and knock-ons can cost a team dearly as they fight desperately for victory.

That’s the best way to sum up the second term.

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South Africa started the half on the back foot, but ended up snatching the lead back through wing Cheslin Kolbe.

But Libbok missed the conversion, and later a penalty, which proved costly in the end. De Klerk also missed two long-range penalty attempts while Ireland’s Sexton nailed one.

The Boks had another opportunity to attack Ireland’s line with just over 10 minutes to play, but errors at the lineout and scrum let Andy Farrell’s men kick their way out of danger once again.

With the game on the line coming down the stretch, South Africa’s efforts were in vain. Ireland had the last laugh with replacement Jack Crowley knocking over a simple shot at goal.

Ireland extended their incredible unbeaten run to 15 tests, and are likely to face either the All Blacks or Italy in the quarter-finals.

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