Ireland delivered a statement win at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday evening, beating world champions South Africa 13-8 in a gripping contest at the Stade de France in Paris. 

A first-half converted try from Mack Hansen and second-half penalties from Johnny Sexton and Jack Crowley were enough to see Ireland over the line in a low-scoring but thrilling game of rugby between the two best-ranked sides in the world.  

Regarded as one of the most anticipated rugby matches in years, the game started in bruising fashion, with both sides bringing ferocious intensity. 

The 78,452 fans inside the Stade de France were predominately Irish, belting out "the Fields of Athenry" at regular intervals during the titanic tussle. 

Ireland's line-out malfunctioned on several occasions in the opening half, with Andy Farrell's side spurning a number of promising positions in South African territory. 

It was South Africa who struck first, taking the lead through a penalty from Manie Libbok in the sixth minute. 

Ireland withstood significant South African pressure close to their own try-line midway through the half before Bundee Aki made a game-changing break, bringing the play back into South African territory. 

Ireland made no mistake this time, turning down a kick at the posts to boldly go for the corner with minutes remaining in the half. 

Their line-out held firm on this occasion and Ireland pummeled the South African try-line, with Sexton going close to a superb try of his own. 

The ball was recycled, however, and Hansen touched down after a superb pass from Jamison Gibson-Park. Sexton added the extras to give Ireland a four-point lead at half-time. 

Ireland had to absorb more South African pressure early in the second half when a long-range penalty from Faf de Klerk struck the post and caused havoc in the Irish 22. 

South Africa controlled possession and began to dominate the scrum. winning a number of penalties deep in Irish territory. 

With Ireland's scrum beginning to crumble, South Africa worked the ball wide to Cheslin Kolbe who raced over to put South Africa back in the lead. Crucially, though, Libbok missed a routine conversion, leaving just one point between the teams. 

More crucially still, Ireland began to gain a foothold in the game following the concession of that try and won a penalty in front of the posts with 20 minutes remaining. Sexton made no mistake, kicking Ireland back into the lead. 

Kicking would prove costly for South Africa, with Libbok and de Klerk both missing with attempts to put the Springboks back in front as Ireland absorbed wave after wave of South African attacks. 

During a rare foray into South African territory, replacement fly-half Jack Crowley kicked a simple penalty with three minutes remaining to stretch Ireland's lead out to five. 

There was still time for a late South Africa attack when they were awarded a penalty on the halfway line. 

The Springboks kicked to the corner, setting up a grandstand finish. 

With a South African maul crashing toward the Irish line, Ireland's defense just about held on and referee Ben O'Keeffe judged that the ball had been held up, awarding Ireland a scrum and bringing a gripping encounter to an end. 

The result means that Ireland have now won their last 16 test matches in a row, while South Africa have suffered their first World Cup defeat in nine games. 

It also means that Ireland are top of Pool B with a final game against Scotland to come in two weeks' time. 

Aki, who was named man of the match, described Irish fans as "incredible" in a post-match interview with RTÉ. 

"These fans are incredible! It’s a joke! South Africa are an outstanding team. I can guarantee you we will see them again. As a group and as a team, we knew we had to be a lot better in all areas of our games. They put us under immense pressure, we trusted in each other and we had great belief in ourselves," Aki told RTÉ Sport.