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Rugby World Cup: Star man Henderson stands tall coming from the bench

By Michael Sadlier

He was barely on the pitch, and was called into action earlier than anticipated due to Paul O'Connell's difficulties, but Iain Henderson made his presence felt with immediate effect.

No doubt stung at being asked to bench, his first contribution was to steal a lineout as Ireland ramped up their all-consuming pressure game at the start of the second half.

And if you are looking for an iconic image of this epic and first-ever World Cup win over Les Bleus, then Henderson provided a moment with just over 10 minutes to go when Ireland were still leading but under the cosh.

The French won a penalty and went for the corner though, not for the first time, they didn't exactly look confident at lineout time. The ball ended up in the hands of Yoann Maestri and Henderson picked him up, drove the French player back, and dumped him into the Cardiff turf.

Several minutes later and Ireland were up in the French 22 and there he was again spinning away to drive himself forward in the huge surge which ultimately led to Conor Murray's match-securing try.

And what of Tommy Bowe? How he has roared back to show us that he still has what it takes.

Bowe's line for the first-half chance which was dropped by Keith Earls was vintage stuff as the Monaghan man tore through a hole in France's midfield. It was widely accepted that he would be there to chase high kicks and, again, Bowe delivered here while also being involved in the lead-up to Rob Kearney's try.

It was Murray's score which brought major contributions being made by Rory Best and replacement Chris Henry with the former being held up just inches short before Murray touched the ball off the base of the post.

Best was magnificent and his leadership qualities came to the fore in Ireland's hour of need. One example of his handiwork came late in the first half just after France had sacked an Irish scrum. Les Bleus began to ramp up their phase play but there was Best and Jamie Heaslip 'jackaling' the ball to win a vital turnover.

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