Irish edge world champions South Africa in Test thriller

Ireland, the number one ranked team in the world, edged world champions South Africa 19-16 in a thrilling rugby Test at Lansdowne Road on Saturday for a 10th successive home win.

Both sides scored two tries apiece in the second-half as the game opened up after an attritional first period which saw the sides tied at 6-6 at the break.

The hosts tries came through Josh van der Flier and Mack Hansen whilst Franco Mostert and Kurt-Lee Arendse went over for the Springboks.

"That is the key word 'Test' match!" said Ireland captain Johnny Sexton.

"South Africa put you under so much pressure with their physicality but we dug in there and pulled it off and the pack did a brilliant job.

"We fronted up, we always do. We did not play our best but they did not let us.

"They are in our World Cup pool in a neutral venue. It will be a hell of a game.

"We will learn from this victory too, just as we would if we lost."

Conor Murray's traditional run on for his 100th cap was almost ruined as Sexton started to walk the team out from the tunnel.

However, Sexton realised the error, stopping and ushering his long-time half-back partner forward to take the cheers on his own.

The Irish made a storming start earning a penalty in the second minute -- Sexton slotting it over for a 3-0 lead.

Damian Willemse, making just his third start for the Springboks as fly-half, levelled the scores in the ninth minute.

The hosts had been under the cosh and got a boost in the 17th minute as Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli flashed a yellow card at Cheslin Kolbe for a dangerous tackle on Mack Hansen.

The Irish tried to take immediate advantage but a crunching tackle on Hugo Keenan by Makazole Mapimpi won the Springboks a penalty allowing them to clear upfield.

Willemse missed a chance to put the visitors ahead as his weakness in kicking at goal was painfully evident with his penalty drifting well wide of the posts.

- Murray disappointment -

However, it would have been the Springboks who were the happier come the return of Kolbe having kept the game all square.

Murray's 100th Test ended disappointingly as, having made a run piercing the South African defence, he pulled up clutchng his groin.

The 33-year-old limped off with his hands covering his face in despair.

Sexton converted a penalty resulting from Murray's run to give them a 6-3 lead.

The Springboks levelled with the last kick of the half as Kolbe -- replacing Willemse as the kicker -- sent the ball between the posts.

The Irish came out fired up for the second-half despite losing another stalwart Tadhg Furlong to injury.

Sexton boldly went for touch instead of the posts -- having been awarded a penalty -- and van der Flier did brilliantly to touch down from the resulting line-out.

Sexton's conversion went wide leaving the Irish 11-6 up.

The hosts' tails were up and they were back over the tryline within minutes.

A brilliant move by the Irish, having forced a turnover, resulted in Hansen going over in the corner -- Sexton's conversion once again went wide.

The Springboks were looking fatigued and became increasingly frustrated -- Willie Le Roux received a telling off from the referee to 'watch your language' -- but they struck back with 14 minutes remaining.

Franco Mostert went over but Kolbe's conversion came back off the post for 16-11.

Willemse's travails at fly-half did not let up as he sent a kick out on the full which allowed the Irish to come back for a line-out inside the visitors half.

They came away with three crucial points as Sexton -- with his right thigh strapped -- landed a penalty for 19-11 with less than eight minutes remaining.

However, South Africa showed their 'world champion' credentials by coming back once more, Eben Etzebeth's brilliant lay-off setting up Arendse for a try in the corner.

Kolbe missed with the conversion and the Irish held on for the remaining two minutes to spark raucous celebrations.

pi/bsp