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Player ratings: How we marked Ireland's players in the win over South Africa

How would you have scored the boys in, er… white?

Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

IRELAND PRODUCED A brilliant back against the wall display to defeat the world’s second best team.

Here’s how we rated the starting line-up.

Rob Kearney: 7

Showed no ill effects from the back injury that hampered some of his season so far. Solid as ever under the high ball and provided one moment of brilliance in the first half; running laterally to find a gap before earning 30 metres before his team won a penalty.

Tommy Bowe: 7

South Africa chiefly targeted the left wing during the first half which left Bowe on the periphery. As always, the wing was eager for work and got his rewards when he got on the end of Murray’s cross-field kick to seal the victory.

Jared Payne: 7

Selected for his greater experience in defending the 13 channel and fulfilled his task. A solid debut at the very highest level of the game.

Robbie Henshaw: 8

Showed a good willingness to truck the ball into contact especially when Ireland needed a platform close to their own line. Also made some half breaks further up the field and kicked cross-field into the gap to set up the line-out that lead to the game’s opening try.

Simon Zebo: 7

Targeted by early South African kicks but never shirked his duty and looked dangerous while running the ball back and on the chase.

Johnny Sexton: 9

Excellent off the tee, kicking 100% of his opportunities even after appearing to struggle with cramp.

Set the tone early on with some excelled up and unders. Limited early possession meant he didn’t have a great deal of playmaking to do, but is always the man holding the screwdriver when Ireland look to turn the screw. Some excellent kicks in open play to stretch the 14 men in opposition.

Conor Murray: 8

Assured as ever at the base of the ruck and provided excellent service to Sexton all night along with some brilliant passes when Ireland required more pace on the attack.

Jack McGrath: 7

Showed his old head on young shoulders with his ability to deal with a series of penalty decisions against him. It was always going to be a difficult day in the scrum, but stook to his duties in the loose and forced some crucial turnovers to alleviate ‘Bok pressure.

Sean Cronin: 7

Didn’t manage to hit all his targets at the line-out, but the quality of the opponent should be taken in to consideration. A solid outing in place of Rory Best.

Mike Ross: 7

Managed to hold the scrum together just enough to get Ireland through. Looked off the pace otherwise, understandably after a month laid up through injury.

Devin Toner: 8

Along with O’Connell produced Trojan work around the field and gave Ireland some much needed physicality in the face of a bigger, more experienced pack.

Paul O’Connell: 9

As ever, the captain led from the front and ensured South Africa were never allowed to rest on their laurels. Called the line-out brilliantly, never more so than for the move that led to the game’s crucial try.

Peter O’Mahony: 8

Wasn’t able to provide the number of turnovers Ireland fans became used to in the Six Nations, but typically was never far from the thick of the action.

Rhys Ruddock: 9

A late call-up to the starting XV, but made his presence felt in an unfamiliar number 7 jersey. Stood up to some serious punishment in the ruck and got his rewards on the back of Ireland’s excellent try off a maul.

Jamie Heaslip: 8

Managed to sake off an early high shot. The absence of Chris Henry made his breakdown skills all the more important and he duly made himself a nuisance time and again for green jerseys.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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