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Farrell: Our character was immense

Farrell: Our character was immense

2022 Bank of Ireland Nations Series, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland 5/11/2022 Ireland vs South Africa Ireland's Johnny Sexton celebrates with head coach Andy Farrell after the game

Head coach Andy Farrell hailed Ireland’s guts and determination to come out on top of a ‘proper Test match’ against world champions South Africa in Dublin.

In a hotly-anticipated Autumn Nations Series clash, Johnny Sexton’s boot was the difference between the two titans as the hosts held on to win 19-16.

Two penalties apiece left the scores level at half-time, before two tries in five minutes from Josh van der Flier and Mack Hansen opened up a 10-point lead.

Springbok Franco Mostert crossed in the 67th minute but Sexton’s third penalty in the 74th meant Kurt-Lee Arendse’s try two minutes later was ultimately immaterial.

Farrell reacted: “It was a hell of a Test match, wasn’t it? It had a bit of everything. We wanted to test ourselves in that regard, in terms of the physicality.

“It takes my breath away a little bit. Some of the lads played their first game of the season and a lot of lads are down on minutes, and they put in a performance like that.

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“I thought we showed fantastic spirit. We’ve got resilience, we’ve got guts, character.

“We wanted the different type of Test match that was a proper old-fashioned slinging match to see where we’re at in that regard.

“And, wow, I thought the character of the side was immense, for all sorts of reasons.”

“Having said that South Africa are a hell of a side and it could have gone either way.”

It was exactly the outcome Farrell was hoping for, but it was the way his side repelled the Springboks attack that pleased him the most.

“I’m unbelievably proud of them of how they’ve applied themselves,” said Farrell. “Our set-piece was unbelievable and on the back of that our defence was immense.”

“If the result had been different for us I’d still have felt the same way,” said the Englishman.

Ireland’s talisman and captain Sexton is keen for his players to keep their feet on the ground.

“It’s a good start to the year, that’s it really,” said Sexton.

“We won a Triple Crown last year but we want to do something in the Six Nations.

“We talk about the World Cup but we’re a good bit away. We need to stay present and try to keep winning.”

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber praised Ireland for converting their chances and said that was the difference between the teams.

“Ireland deserved this victory,” said Nienaber. “They were good and capitalised on their opportunities. Every one they got, they used.”

“The difference tonight was that Ireland used all the chances they created, and we didn’t.

“One obviously wants to win every game you play, but the reality is that we played against Ireland away in front of a capacity crowd at the Aviva Stadium, and we lost by three points.

“There were some good things and other areas that were not so good, and we’ll work on that as we prepare for the Test against France.”

Nienaber brushed off any blame for his goal kickers, Cheslin Kolbe and Damian Willemse, who missed two conversions and one penalty between them.

“We’re working on it. We and the players measure their kicking, so they know at what percentage they’re kicking at during the week,” he said.

“It’s tough, in some instances a miss is actually a kick that hits the posts. It is what it is. None of the goalkickers go out there to miss a goal. I’ll never blame a player for that.

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