‘It was very emotional’ - Man-of-the-match CJ Stander overwhelmed by Irish debut
Published 07/02/2016 | 17:06
Debutant man of the match CJ Stander insists Ireland can still chase an unprecedented third-consecutive RBS 6 Nations title after drawing 16-16 with Wales in Dublin.
The South Africa-born flanker proved his Test pedigree with a bullocking performance on his Ireland bow, helping Joe Schmidt's men force a share of the spoils at the Aviva Stadium.
Stander's impressive ball-carrying and work rate justifiably won him the official man of the match award, with Conor Murray's try helping Ireland into a 13-0 lead.
Wales hit back through Taulupe Faletau's try, going 16-13 up, before Johnny Sexton landed a pressure penalty six minutes from time to level the tie.
"It's points on the board, so we'll take that and move forward," Stander told RTE Television.
"Both teams came out and played great rugby.
"I'm proud of the boys to hold on at the end.
"When we had the ball we did some great work, in the first-half we were flying, the second-half we slipped a bit but it was a good effort.
"It's a good start and we can build on that."
Ireland could be left to fret on Sexton's fitness, after the linchpin fly-half left the field with five minutes to play seemingly suffering a chest problem.
Keith Earls and Tommy O'Donnell also left the action for Head Injury Assessments (HIA), so will be scrutinised to see if they suffered concussion.
Ireland were already without 10 injured frontline stars and will be hugely proud of their effort in containing Warren Gatland's men.
Boss Schmidt had already insisted a mid-table finish would represent success this year given the injury catalogue, but this share of the spoils allows Ireland to remain in the hunt for further success.