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Rugby World Cup: Rory Best is key to Ireland's progress

How the Ulstermen fared

By Michael Sadlier

As was always expected, the battle up front was going to be the dominating factor against the Italians and in this regard both Rory Best and Iain Henderson stepped up to the plate.

Henderson walked off with the Man of the Match award thanks to his two turnovers and 90 per cent tackle success rate, but Best also worked hard to give Ireland some go-forward ball while also putting his body on the line defensively.

There was that rolling maul where Best was wrapped up by Quintin Geldenhuys, but apart from that the Ireland hooker was there or thereabouts most of the time with positive inputs.

He showed up more than skipper Paul O'Connell, as well as the largely nullified Sean O'Brien. His darts were on the money again and on several occasions he was there making tackles when it mattered.

Best's presence on the park was a crucial part of Ireland's game-plan, even though things weren't quite going to plan.

Of course, Henderson was far more high profile, but Best was also involved in the two choke tackles which the younger man managed to instigate.

When it came to dynamic ball-carrying, though, Henderson was the main man in a green shirt.

As for Tommy Bowe, the game was mostly about his kick-chasing which was notably successful on occasions and might well be enough to get him a starting spot for France.

There were a few angled runs which didn't amount to much and some important tackles, but nothing really to get excited about.

Bowe seemed to get better at kick-chasing as the game wore on - he was also a target for re-starts and did win one early one - with his great take from Conor Murray's high kick just before the hour helping relieve pressure.

Chris Henry was sprung from the bench and managed to assist in robbing Michele Capagnaro late on as well as snaffling the ball from another Italian overthrow.

His cameo mattered as, at that point, 14-man Ireland were having to keep Italy contained in their own half. It worked and now it's off to the showdown in Cardiff.

Belfast Telegraph

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