Ireland on brink of World Cup last eight after edging Springboks

Ireland on brink of World Cup last eight after edging Springboks

Ireland are on the cusp of the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals after a thrilling 13-8 victory over defending champions South Africa in a riveting Pool B match at the Stade de France on Saturday.

Springbok full-back Damian Willemse

The Irish top the pool and round off their campaign against Scotland in a fortnight while the Springboks, who are second, play Tonga in their final match next weekend.

The statement win extended Ireland's record winning run to 16 Tests and brought to an end the Springboks' run of six in a row.

The clash of the world's two top teams, who could feasibly meet again in the final on October 28, did not disappoint.

Ireland were roared on by the majority of the crowd, which Ireland try scorer Mack Hansen said had pushed the team to the win.

"It was pretty much like the Grand Slam on steroids out there," he said. "It was incredible and we needed every single one of them out there tonight to get the job done against a really good South African team."

Early Irish pressure was rewarded with a penalty but Sexton was left to rue his decision.

The Irish skipper went for touch rather than take an almost certain three points as the Springboks won the line-out and cleared, putting the pressure on the Irish.

South Africa did not follow suit when the Irish infringed, taking the three points as Manie Libbok slotted the ball over.

The Irish lineout was all over the place with hooker Ronan Kelleher's throwing at fault as they lost four successive ones.

It was Kelleher again who spoiled a great opportunity after a superb run by Hugo Keenan had them a metre from the tryline.

Kelleher knocked on and received a consoling pat on the head -- he looked at that point as if he needed something stronger.

- Libbok's wayward kicking -

Kelleher's evening was proving costly to his teammates as another lost lineout handed the Springboks a scrum close to the Ireland line.

The Irish got out of trouble fortuitously. Jesse Kriel's passed to Siya Kolisi but with the line begging it bounced off the captain's head into Caelan Doris's hands.

Bundee Aki, winning his 50th cap, sparked the Irish into their best spell so far of the match, producing a lung-busting break into the Springboks 22.

This time the Irish came away with points and the lead -- Sexton again choosing to go for touch than the posts.

James Lowe's long pass found the unmarked Hansen on the right wing and the Australian-born flyer sped over but touched down perilously close to the deadball line.

The try stood and Sexton added the extras to make the score 7-3 with six minutes to the break.

Faf de Klerk took a pot at goal early in the second-half from inside his own half but the ball came off the bar.

Sexton and Aki urged the Irish fans to raise the decibels as the South Africans pressed from inside the Ireland 22.

They obeyed as the Springboks chose to have a scrum when they were awarded a penalty a few metres from the Ireland line.

Bolstered by fresh reinforcements of forwards, the decision paid off as the Springboks spread the ball wide, Libbok finding Kolbe on his own and he went over.

Libbok, though, sent the conversion wide to leave the Boks 8-7 up.

Kolisi was withdrawn and Kelleher's nightmare also came to an end with Dan Sheehan sent on.

The seesaw continued as Sexton went for goal and converted a penalty to put the Irish 10-8 up.

South African frustration came to the surface when Damian Willemse knocked on the fullback and flung the ball to the ground.

Libbok's kicking at goal had been an issue in the lead-up to the match and it let him down again as he sent a penalty wide of the posts with 16 minutes remaining.

"Obviously in a game like this you have to take your points and you have to convert pressure into points. Unfortunately we didn't get it right," Libbok admitted.

De Klerk tried again from inside his own half but that too went wide.

The 'Boks came surging into Irish territory and when awarded a penalty they went for a scrum, but the Irish held firm and cleared.

Sexton went off to thunderous roars to be replaced by Jack Crowley who slotted over a penalty in front of the posts to make it 13-8.

It was unconfined joy from the Irish a few minutes later when they turned over a Springbok scrum and a memorable victory was confirmed.

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