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Rob Kearney: 8
Came into the game with worries over his fitness but ruled the roost at full-back with no ill-effects of his hamstring problem. Took the right options all evening and covered the back-field brilliantly.
Tommy Bowe: 8
Closing in on Denis Hickie’s second spot on the try-scoring charts after his latest effort. His earlier catch and kick showed what Ireland missed during his absence.
Jared Payne: 7
Ireland didn’t ask much of their centres in attack but what Payne did, he did well. Whistled once for holding on, but covered for a first-half Henshaw misread and defended well throughout.
Robbie Henshaw: 8
Physically born for this level and he showed on Saturday that he has the brains to match with that superb kick that led to Ruddock’s try. A little to learn in defence if the No 12 shirt is to be his.
Simon Zebo: 6
Chasing kick-offs brilliantly is becoming a Zebo trademark, but this wasn’t a night for any of his free running. Needs to work on his back-field work, while he was partly at fault for the try.
Jonathan Sexton: 9
A magnificent display from the fly-half who rewarded his forwards’ efforts with some sublime kicking. 100pc from the tee and clever with ball in hand, the brains of the operation.
Conor Murray: 9
Growing in stature with every outing, Murray’s partnership with Sexton must be a comfort for Joe Schmidt. Decision-making key, service solid and the kick for Bowe’s try was perfect.
Jack McGrath: 7
A tad harsh maybe, but three penalties went against the St Mary’s man who lost his scrum battle to Jannie du Plessis. Despite that, he was excellent around the park.
Sean Cronin: 7
His captain took the blame for the stray lineouts and Cronin got through a mountain of work in the loose, taking the game to South Africa from the whistle. Industrious.
Mike Ross: 7
Despite a month on the sidelines, Ross held up his end of the bargain and then some. Got through 74 minutes of hard work and, one silly penalty aside, never let the side down.
Devin Toner: 7
Criticised himself for his defensive work last month but the big man put in a huge shift in the tight. Work at the restart is really impressive, but he’s not a cross-kick option.
Paul O’Connell: 7
Led from the front and was far more dynamic than his opposite number Victor Matfield. Took the lineout problems on his own shoulders, but made up for it with his huge effort.
Peter O’Mahony: 8
Must be an absolute nightmare to play against. The Corkman won’t take no for an answer, somehow winning the ball on the deck that led to the key penalty to make it 19-10.
Rhys Ruddock: 8
Only found out he was playing a few hours before kick-off but performed impressively, taking and giving huge hits for his team. A frightening specimen, his physique is a real asset.
Jamie Heaslip: 8
Won’t want to see a replay of Pietersen’s try, but otherwise the vice-captain was immense again. Carrying cleverly and tackling hard, he has rarely been in better form.
Richardt Strauss (7) made a telling impact with an all-action display against his home country. Tommy O’Donnell (7) was next on and got stuck in, picking up where O’Mahony left off. Otherwise, Schmidt held fire on his replacements until the game was won, with most coming on after Bowe’s try with six minutes to go.
Joe Schmidt: 9
If England are throwing out six-year deals for their underperforming selectors, what’s holding up the IRFU in trying to nail Schmidt down beyond 2016?
His fingerprints were all over this committed, clever display against bigger, in-form opponents who looked confused at what was happening. The players, who deserve huge credit, are buying into his regime and getting the rewards as the winning run goes to five.
With the New Zealander’s mind in their corner, Ireland can achieve anything.
Game at a Glance
Man of the Match: Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
An outstanding display from the fly-half who showed Handre Pollard he still has a way to go in the white heat of Test rugby.
The yellow card was important, but momentum shifted when Richardt Strauss ripped the ball from Jannie du Plessis’ grasp on the hour-mark. South Africa were looking menacing, but Ireland got relief and a second wind.
Confidence levels are high and the possibilities that are opening up under the guiding hand of Joe Schmidt are genuinely exciting. The World Cup is looking promising.
A gritty match was blown open by Conor Murray’s pre-planned but brilliantly executed chip to Tommy Bowe, who gathered and scored. Special mention for Willie Le Roux, who lit up the Aviva at times.
The Springboks were dignified in defeat and wouldn’t go down the tired route of criticising Romain Poite, but they had reason to feel Strauss’ yellow card was harsh. Otherwise, a strong display.
What they said
Joe Schmidt (Ireland coach):
“I’m delighted less about the performance than by the people that performed. The character they showed gives me a lot of confidence that they are utterly committed to the job.”
Jannie du Plessis (South Africa prop):
“I don’t know if we’re angry or bitter. It’s a s*** feeling and if you play in a Springbok jersey you don’t want to have that feeling.”
Jared Payne is the big worry after he injured his foot. Initial X-rays were clear, but he’ll have scans this morning and is unlikely to face Georgia. Chris Henry suffered a viral infection on the morning of the game, but could yet train this week.
Ireland will ring the changes for the visit of Georgia and give players a rest ahead of the Wallabies’ arrival. South Africa will be a wounded beast as they take to Twickenham to face England.
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