Monday 19 March 2018 / 12:12 AM


Ireland has beaten the All Blacks…yep, the world champs’ world record streak is over, and the Irish have their first-ever win over the Kiwis in 111 years of Test rugby between the nations.

It was a rollercoaster of emotions for both teams’ supporters during the Chicago-hosted game as the Irish got the lion’s share of ball in the first stanza, despite George Moala scoring the first try in the ninth minute after a counterattack and a bit of luck with the ball bouncing off Kieran Read’s head.

Ireland dominated the first half, scoring three tries, some of which you could deem as very soft from the All Blacks’ perspective. Five-pointers to Connor Murray, Jordan Murphy and CJ Stander took the score to a shock 25-8 tally by halftime.

After another try to the underdogs after the break, the second half unfolded as expected with the All Blacks flexing their muscle as their superior fitness came to the fore.

The bench players were injected early and it paid dividends straight away with halfback TJ Perenara scoring from a pass from his Hurricanes teammate Dane Coles. Ben Smith then scored in the corner from a flick pass from Beauden Barrett.

Brother Scott Barrett then scored a Test debut, taking a short ball from Liam Squire 20 metres out to crash over the fullback for five points. If you didn’t put the house on the All Blacks to win before kickoff, you would be confident to do that again after 63 minutes when the Kiwis were only four points in arrears.

Ireland had different ideas, though, halting New Zealand’s seemingly irresistible momentum.

Instead of playing territory and kicking the ball away, the men in green endeavoured to score more points. They went wide, and winger Simon Zebo kicked it deep and managed to tackle Julian Savea over the line to force a scrum five metres out.

With four minutes to go most teams would have kept the ball in the scrum for a pushover try or to wind down the clock, but instead Ireland No.8 Jamie Heaslip picked the ball up and turned it to inside centre Robbie Henshaw, who crashed over to take the game beyond doubt at 40-29.

Easy as that…

That’s how you beat the All Blacks: play expansive, attack the breakdown, have passion in defence and for your country. Pretty simple really.

The Irish played rugby, they threw the ball around with control and had a go at the All Blacks. If you want to beat them you must score tries and that’s exactly what they did. They chanced their arm and there were two occasions this was very telling.

Coming out of the halftime break they had a penalty 40 metres out, but instead of going for the three points they went for the lineout and their fourth. Again in the 75th minute, instead of playing territory and kicking the ball away, they went wide, kicked and chased, forced a scrum and scored.

The Irish did not let up on defence, and in making 125 tackles, they only missed 15. Most players are able to tackle but it all comes down to having passion in their jersey and for their country – there was venom and force in the defence, matching the All Blacks physically like no team has managed in the past 12 months.

Props for the ref

Referee Mathieu Raynal from France was brilliant in this game. He didn’t adjudicate to the letter of the law but he was fair and consistent for both teams. Was there an offside line? I don’t think there was, but he let both teams be two steps in front of the imaginary line. Raynal let the game flow and didn’t get overwhelmed by the occasion. The yellow card to Joe Moody is a bit of embarrassment to world rugby but under the laws of the game it was deserved.

Player of the game?

Plenty of candidates for this. Rob Kearney at fullback was excellent under the high ball, as was winger Simon Zebo. They both carried well and got involved a lot. Jamie Heaslip at No.8 was a workhorse in both attack and defence and showed great leadership. Meanwhile, Johnny Sexton continued his outstanding form and controlled the game well from the flyhalf role. When he went down early in the second half you thought maybe the All Blacks could come back, but his back-up Joey Carbery was just as good.

Lineout wobbles

What happens when you lose your two best locks? You lose five of your own lineouts. The All Blacks were average at lineout time, mainly using Kieran Read as their chief lineout jumper. Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick not playing today could have also contributed to the All Blacks demise, as the world’s finest second-row duo get through so much work on both sides of the ball.

Have Ireland woken a beast?

The All Blacks may not take it a game at a time anymore as they look towards their revenge match against Ireland in three weeks’ time. I don’t think they will have to worry about a slow start when the two teams meet again – the ABs will take this game almost like a World Cup final.

Or maybe Italy will feel the full force of a wounded All Blacks side next week.

It’s a scary prospect for the international rugby landscape if this is to prove a wakeup call for the New Zealanders, given their incredible lead-up form.

[YouTube – The Tight Five Rugby Union]

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About the author


Sunshine Coast-based Ryan is a proud product of Southland, NZ, and was brought up on a steady diet of rugby union - which has led him to provide us with his forthright opinions on the 15-a-side code.

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