Thursday 12 December 2019

Player ratings from Ireland's historic win over South Africa

Ireland players celebrate at the final whistle
Ireland players celebrate at the final whistle

Jim Glennon

It was a historic day for Irish rugby as Joe Schmidt's men beat South Africa 26-20, while earlier in the day the Under-20s sealed a heroic win over New Zealand in the Rugby World Championship. Here is how the players rated against the Boks.

Jared Payne     9

Good things come to those who wait, and he eventually got his run at full-back — his best position. Dealt with everything that came his way and had several typically classy interventions in attack. Took his try very well.

Andrew Trimble     7

A typical ‘Trimble’ performance. High work-rate, solid defensively and, while busy in the air offensively, never particularly threatening. A favourite of Schmidt, reliable but by no means outstanding — rarely posed a threat.

Robbie Henshaw     8

Moved to 13 as a consequence of the break-up of the coach’s favoured centre duo. Slightly uncomfortable defensively, not unconnected to his yellow card, but assertively industrious in attack. Key element in team.

11 June 2016; Robbie Henshaw of Ireland after the 1st test of the Castle Lager Incoming series between South Africa and Ireland at the DHL Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Luke Marshall     8

A welcome first appearance since the 2014 tour to Argentina, and his partnership with Henshaw looks to have real potential. Well able to mix it physically and showed an outhalf’s touch in setting up Payne’s try.

Keith Earls     8

Definitely the more threatening of Ireland’s wings. Looked seriously sharp and suited by the firm ground conditions. Springbok physicality didn’t trouble him, always challenged Boks’ defence when in possession.

Paddy Jackson     8.5

A watershed day, and tour, for Jackson after a good season with Ulster. Attacked the gain line constantly throughout, even when shipping some punishment, and his kicking and game-management were superb.

Conor Murray     8

The senior half-back exuded a sense of calm and his kicking game was largely on the money. Behind a pressured pack, he provided a quality service to Jackson. In Sexton’s absence, his fitness is paramount.

Jack McGrath     8.5

Followed up an excellent season with an outstanding, full-game shift. Springbok scrum was a major challenge but McGrath was more than equal to it — with a notably effective work-rate in open play, too.

Rory Best     8.5

Difficult captaincy challenge early on with inexperienced officiating, but came to terms with it well. Hugely industrious, his work in defence and at the breakdown were major factors in taking the game to the Boks.

Ireland captain Rory Best, left, and head coach Joe Schmidt celebrate

Mike Ross     7

Targeted by the home team, and ‘the Beast’ Mtawarira certainly tested him. Rolled with the punches though, and characteristically got through 60 crucial minutes. Contribution around the pitch much-curtailed by demands of the scrum.

Iain Henderson     9

His class and physicality were vital against a team, and second-row duo, such as the Boks have. Relished the challenge, persevering to huge effect. May feature in the back-row in the coming weeks.

Devin Toner     8.5

Crucial to the Irish set-piece, particularly given the height of the home lineout. Managed his options superbly in that facet, however, and stepped up to the plate in every aspect. One of the team’s leaders now.

11 June 2016; Devin Toner of Ireland celebrates after the 1st test of the Castle Lager Incoming series between South Africa and Ireland at the DHL Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

CJ Stander    7.5

If Ross was the principal target tactically, CJ was his physical equivalent. A huge day for him had started reasonably well when cut short by what’s best described as a questionable red card from inexperienced officials.

Jamie Heaslip     8.5

In some of his best form of late, and continued in that vein. Alongside Henderson and Jackson, was to the fore in bringing the fight to the Springboks. Crucial to the squad, his leadership will be key to the series.

Jordi Murphy     8

His selection seemed to signify an intention for Ireland to move the ball and his presence around the pitch throughout was a factor. Work-rate at the breakdown and in contact area was a major benefit.

Joe Schmidt     8.5

A tough gig at the end of a marathon season. Excellent selection and management of his chosen match-day squad, especially effective in the crucial last quarter. Another monkey off the Irish back.

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