Ireland produced a performance of guts and gumption to claim a 16-9 win over the All Blacks in Dublin on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
In the lead-up to this game, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen suggested that the winner of this encounter should be regarded as the No 1 side in Test rugby. He may regret those words now.
For New Zealand, it’s a second loss of the year, and when one considers that they were extremely fortunate to beat both the Boks at Loftus and England at Twickenham, there is a growing sense that the world champs are no longer infallible.
On this occasion, Ireland were fully deserving of a morale-boosting victory as they produced a display of relentless phase play in the opening stanza, before relying on some immense and committed defence to see them home.
The opening exchanges of this clash bore all the hallmarks of a heavyweight bout, with both teams matching each other blow for blow.
However, it was Ireland who enjoyed a couple of industrious returns at the breakdown where South African-born CJ Stander made his presence felt, while the All Blacks were guilty of conceding four penalties within the opening 15 minutes.
Midway through the first half, Ireland also made a significant statement when they turned down a shot at goal to rather set up a lineout, while soon after they won a penalty after a dominant scrum, with Johnny Sexton duly edging the hosts into a three point lead.
Ireland continued to throw everything at the All Blacks with unrelenting physicality, and just before half-time their forward pack delivered once again to absolutely demolish the opposing scrum.
Considering New Zealand’s high penalty count, they were fortunate to not see a man sent to the sin bin during that first half, while Ireland would have been disappointed to only enjoy a three-point lead at the break.
Ireland would open up a buffer, though, when winger Jacob Stockdale produced a moment of magic to chip and collect his own kick over the defence before diving over to score. The successful conversion took the hosts into a deserved 16-6 lead heading into the final half an hour.
As expected, the All Blacks refused to capitulate and typically looked to up the tempo in the hope of inspiring a comeback, but Ireland continued to stand firm through committed defence and tenacious work at the breakdown.
Yet, a high tackle would allow Beauden Barrett to slot a penalty and draw the visitors back within seven points, but Ireland simply refused to be denied as they produced one massive final defensive effort to overcome the All Blacks.
Ireland – Try: Jacob Stockdale. Conversion: Johnny Sexton. Penalties: Sexton (3).
All Blacks – Penalties: Beauden Barrett (2). Drop goal: Barrett.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour.
All Blacks – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.