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How we rated Ireland in their four-try victory over South Africa

Sexton, Conway and Furlong all stood out as Schmidt’s men got up-and-running.

Ryan Bailey reports from the Aviva Stadium  

IRELAND KICKED OFF their three-game November series with a dominant victory over South Africa this evening. Here is how we rated the performances of Joe Schmidt’s side.

Andrew Conway scores his sides first try Conway goes over for his first Ireland try. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Rob Kearney: 6

Selected by Schmidt to add experience to Ireland’s back three, Kearney largely did the job asked of him but a lack of game time this season showed at various stages as he kicked loosely and was caught out by the bounce of the ball towards the end of the first half.

Andrew Conway: 8

It might have taken him a little longer than he would have liked to get here, but Andrew Conway looks right at home on this stage. Winning his fourth cap on the right wing, the Munster man was lively throughout and was rewarded with a first international try.

A booming clearance kick during the early stages set the tone and he grew in stature from there, becoming Ireland’s most dangerous attacking threat. The 26-year-old was sharp to latch onto the loose ball and finish smartly in the corner.

Robbie Henshaw: 7

Reunited with his good friend in midfield, Henshaw is really thriving in that outside centre position this season and carried his Leinster form into the international arena.

Superbly covered when Kearney overran the ball to avert any potential danger and after showing good acceleration to get past the first man up, turned defence into attack with a kick-chase to the corner.

Bundee Aki: 8

The man of the moment, all eyes were on Bundee Aki right from the off and it took him a matter of seconds in a green (or grey) shirt to stamp his authority on this contest.

The centre made a ferocious hit on tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen — who sadly left the field on a stretcher — and was heavily involved in both attack and defence. Made an incredible 17 tackles.

Jacob Stockdale: 8

A memorable night for the young Ulster wing, who rounded off a fine home debut with a try in the far corner.

His evening started quietly, largely because Ireland had such joy down the right in the first half, but grew into the occasion as it went on.

The 21-year-old fronted up incredibly well defensively and a great piece of work to steal it off Tendai Mtawarira before a big hit on Dillyn Leyds forced the turnover.

Eventually got the chance with ball in hand in the build-up to Rhys Ruddock’s game-clinching try and then the moment he was waiting for right at the death.

Johnny Sexton kicks a penalty Sexton kicked 14 points. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Johnny Sexton: 8

Got Ireland up and running with three early penalties, none of which he looked like missing, and was again the orchestrator-in-chief for the hosts. The customary Sexton wraparound caught South Africa out twice and he looked to put the ‘Boks under pressure at every opportunity with an aerial bombardment.

The only blot on the out-half’s copybook was a late, and needless, hit on his opposite number, Elton Jantjies, which momentarily put Ireland under pressure until CJ Stander won a huge turnover.

Faultless, as per, from the tee as he finished with 14 points and was named the sponsor’s man of the match for good measure.

Conor Murray: 7

Springbok head coach Allister Coetzee spoke earlier in the week of the Murray-Sexton halfback pairing as world class, and again they were instrumental in this Irish victory.

Murray’s passing was sharp and crisp and his box-kicking, as it always is, peerless. The Munster scrum-half’s up-and-under caused indecision among the Springbok back three and when Courtnall Skosan botched the high ball, Conway took full advantage.

Cian Healy: 7

This was a big night for Healy as he retained the number one jersey for his fourth straight Ireland start and certainly a leaner, fitter version of the prop appears to be back to his best.

Rory Best: 7

Ireland’s lineout was solid as a rock all evening and Best’s leadership skills cannot be underestimated as he constantly communicated with Ben O’Keeffe.

Ireland’s dominance was underlined by the fact Schmidt was afforded the luxury of bringing his captain off with 13 minutes left on the clock.

Eben Etzebeth is tackled by Tadhg Furlong and Rory Best Furlong had a big game. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Tadhg Furlong: 8

In terms of scrummaging, this was arguably Furlong’s stiffest test as he came up against Tendai Mtawarira, but 17 months after his first start in Joburg the Leinster tighthead showed why he is now considered as one of the best in the game; he out-beasted ‘the Beast’.

Furlong was dominant at the set-piece and in addition made 11 tackles.

Iain Henderson: 8

Henderson’s biggest performance for Ireland to date, as he fronted up and relished the physical confrontation which awaited him. Both Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth felt the force of the Ulster second row in full flight, with the Springbok skipper run straight over by the Lion on this near touchline.

Devin Toner: 7

Has formed an excellent partnership and understanding with Henderson in the Ireland second row and remains an integral part of Schmidt’s side.

Peter O’Mahony: 8

A typically tireless and effective shift from the Munster captain in the trenches as he helped Ireland seize the upper hand at the breakdown from the first minute. A particular highlight was the trademark line out steal in the first period.

A nasty cut to the his left ear probably accounted for his early withdrawal for Rhys Ruddock after 51 minutes.

Sean O’Brien: 7

On the occasion of his 50th international cap, O’Brien was at his very best. Brought energy and physicality to the contest time and time again.

CJ Stander: 8

Amid all the other subplots to this Guinness Series opener, it was easy to forget Stander was again coming up against the country of his birth. A couple of huge hits, most memorably on ‘the Beast’, saw the number eight impose himself on the game before an incredible piece of work in the tackle eased the pressure on the Irish line.

With the Springboks building through eight phases of possession, Stander — aided by O’Mahony — got over the tackled player and won the turnover penalty amid huge roars from the stands.

Was penalised for a high tackle on Mtawarira shortly after the break, which Jantjes slotted over for the visitors’ only points of the evening.

Bundee Aki celebrates with Johnny Sexton A job well done. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Replacements:

Rob Herring: 7

The Ulster hooker finished off a powerful maul and his showing here almost certainly cements his position as understudy to Best for the Argentina Test.

Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan and James Ryan: 7

All introduced as second half subs when Ireland had the game won.

Rhys Ruddock: 7

Was introduced earlier than most expected because of the cut to O’Mahony and announced himself straight away by winning a penalty turnover. Finished off a fine team move including Sexton and Stockdale to seal a comfortable victory.

Kieran Marmion: 7

Kept things ticking over after Murray’s withdrawal.

Joey Carbery: 7

His only real involvement was two late conversion, both of which he slotted between the posts.

Darren Sweetnam: 7

Came off the bench to replace Rob Kearney with six minutes remaining, and received a huge ovation on a memorable day for the Munster man.

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Conway and Stockdale on the mark as Ireland cruise to win over sorry Springboks

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Ryan Bailey

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