Ireland slogged out  a narrow win over South Africa with a free kick from Liam Lawrence at Thomond Park last night.

The scoreline doesn't do justice to the 2010 World Cup hosts who really owned the game from the off.

Lawrence, who plays for Stoke City, got the goal for Ireland shortly before the end of the first half.

Lawrence was part of a practice squad of newcomers all looking for a berth on the team should Ireland qualify for next year's tournament.

Ultimately, it was a drab affair for the 11,300 spectators who showed up but Ireland would be happy to settle for such a dull victory in the big game against Italy next month.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Westwood (Coventry City); Kelly (Fulham), McShane (Hull City), St Ledger (Preston North End), Nolan (Preston North End); Lawrence (Stoke City), Gibson (Manchester Utd), Andrews (Blackburn Rovers), Keogh (Wolves); Folan (Hull City), Doyle (Wolves). Subs: Best (Coventry City) for Doyle (59 mins), O’Dea (Reading) for McShane (62 mins), Duff (Fulham) for Keogh (78 mins).

SOUTH AFRICA: Fernandez; Gaxa, Mokoena, Gould, Masilela; Van Heerden, Dikgacoi, Mhlongo, Parker; Pienaar; Mphela. Subs: Khenyeza for Van Heerden (60 mins), Tshabalala for Parker (64 mins), Henyekane for Mphela (74 mins), Thwala for Masilela (78 mins), Ngobeni for Dikgacoi (81 mins).

Referee: Craig Thomson (Scotland).