Ireland turned history makers in Chicago to beat the All Blacks 40-29 in a historic first-ever win in 111 years, writes MARK KEOHANE.
Ireland led 30-8 early in the secod half but withstood an inevitable All Blacks fightback to lead 33-29 with 15 minutes to go.
Given the All Blacks' form this season, the odds would have been on an All Blacks win but the Irish defence stood firm and they hung in to maintain the pressure defensively.
The Irish, sensing history after 27 defeats and a draw, refused to give an inch and the All Blacks felt the pressure as the passes did not stick.
The All Blacks didn’t dominate possession in the final 15 minutes and they didn’t have advantage in field position. It was uncharted territory for these All Blacks and they couldn’t find an escape to extend their world record-run to 19 Tests.
It will end on 18, a tier-one world record, but the team that has created so much history in the last five years and won everything, is now also the first All Blacks team to lose to Ireland.
The Irish deserved the victory and it is doubtful there would have been any reason to continue the fixture had they lost this one.
The luck had to be with the Irish just this once – and it was.
They scored five tries to four, played for the entire 80 minutes and on balance were the better rugby team.
The All Blacks possess rugby athletes like no other, but in Chicago they were short a few hardened rugby players.
They started without three specialist locks and were made to pay in the lineouts and in the gainline exchanges.
Ireland got the early momentum and kept it for 50 minutes before the famed All Blacks' two-try score struck.
The imposing 30-8 lead was cut to just eight, but there was enough in this Irish effort to deny the All Blacks and create history.
It is a result Ireland has waited 111 years for and it’s a result that seems 111 years overdue given the All Blacks' dominance in the last five years.
Pity Italy next week, who will front the New Zealanders, but don’t pity the All Blacks this week. They were well beaten and didn’t do enough to earn the right to a Houdini escape.
This was a victory for Ireland and for world rugby. It was a victory for those soldiers in green at the famed Soldier field.
Ireland – Tries: Rory Best, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Simon Zebo, Robbie Henshaw. Conversions: Johnny Sexton (3). Penalties: Sexton (2), Murray.
All Blacks – Tries: George Moala, TJ Perenara, Ben Smith, Scott Barrett. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3 ). Penalty: Barrett.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Garry Ringrose.
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 George Moala, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Jerome Kaino, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.
Photo: Getty Images