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Ireland secures a thrilling victory over South Africa in a low-scoring World Cup clash, reaffirming their status as a top contender.

Rugby World Cup 2023 | Match Centre | South Africa 8:13 Ireland

In a thrilling World Cup showdown in Paris, Ireland emerged victorious over defending champions South Africa, positioning themselves as front-runners in Pool B. In a match marked by tenacious defense and minimal scoring, Ireland showcased their mettle and determination, securing a 16th consecutive Test win and bolstering their World Cup aspirations.

The early stages of the game were tense, with South Africa’s Manie Libbok’s penalty kick giving them a slight edge. However, Ireland responded when Mack Hansen’s remarkable try put them in the lead. Cheslin Kolbe quickly retaliated for the Springboks, but Libbok’s failed conversion allowed Johnny Sexton to regain the lead for Ireland with a precise penalty kick.

As the game reached its nail-biting conclusion, Ireland’s defense held strong against South Africa’s relentless attacks. Jack Crowley’s penalty in the closing moments sealed an epic victory for Ireland, prompting jubilant celebrations from the Irish faithful at Stade de France.

This triumph not only marked Ireland’s 16th consecutive Test win but also significantly bolstered their chances of securing a spot in the quarter-finals. Having previously defeated Scotland and Romania, South Africa remains on course for the knockout stage, but this defeat ends their nine-match World Cup winning streak, compelling them to regroup before their next crucial encounters.

The match had been highly anticipated, pitting the world’s top two teams against each other in a battle of contrasting styles. Ireland’s speed and precision in attack clashed with South Africa’s formidable and tenacious defense, which had allowed only three points in their first two matches.

Despite Ireland’s earlier victory over South Africa in Dublin, it was evident that the Springboks were a different force in the World Cup arena. South Africa’s backs coach, Mzwandile Stick, had emphasized the distinct challenges of World Cup rugby, and this was apparent in a first half filled with uncharacteristic errors from the Irish side.

The match saw both teams grappling with early nerves, with Ireland’s struggles compounded by issues in their line-out. South Africa capitalized on these opportunities, with Libbok’s penalty stemming from a botched Ronan Kelleher throw.

Despite passionate support from their fans, the Grand Slam champions seemed out of sync, while South Africa’s confidence grew with each bone-crushing tackle. Frustration mounted for Ireland as they struggled to breach the resilient Springbok defense.

However, a pivotal moment arrived seven minutes before halftime when Bundee Aki, in excellent form and celebrating his 50th cap, initiated a brilliant attacking move. Ireland remained patient, and a well-executed sequence led to Hansen’s electrifying try, which Sexton converted, putting Ireland ahead 7-3.

Ireland maintained their lead despite ongoing line-out issues after the break. South Africa briefly took the lead at 8-7 with Kolbe’s try, but Libbok’s missed conversion allowed Sexton to regain the lead for Ireland with another penalty.

South Africa sought to claw their way back into the game, but their kicking struggles, including missed penalties from Libbok and Faf de Klerk, hindered their efforts. Crowley’s successful kick extended Ireland’s lead, and as the clock wound down, Irish fans roared their team to victory.

In a dramatic conclusion to their first-ever World Cup encounter, Ireland prevailed, underscoring their status as the world’s top team and genuine contenders for the Webb Ellis Cup. Next up, Ireland faces Scotland in a fortnight, while South Africa takes on Tonga in their final pool match.

Match Summary

Pool B | South Africa 8:13 Ireland

South Africa Scores:

TRIES Cheslin Kolbe (51′)
PENS Manie Libbok (6′)

Ireland Scores:

TRIES Mack Hansen (33′)
CONV Johnny Sexton (35′)
PENS Johnny Sexton (59′), Jack Crowley (77′)

Stade de France, Saint-Denis


Ben O’Keeffe

Man of the match:

Bundee Aki (Ireland)


For everything about the Rugby World Cup 2023 check out our guide here.

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