By The Spotter
It was quite the train wreck for the All Blacks. There would be no Crotty-Cruden fairytale this time, either. And in a funny way we really should have seen it coming, although the TAB certainly didn’t- they had Ireland at $9.00 outright. And how very twenty-first century that the history-making victory should occur on neutral ground. Only in the professional area could that have come to pass.
Adulation, small-scale soirees/ meet n’ greets, sponsor obligations and a somewhat fragile-looking All Blacks run-on XV (was there just a little complacency in the ranks?) all in the lead-up. And for those partial to a bit of superstition: this being the year of historical sporting ducks being righted- The Cubs, The Sharks, The Hurricanes and a long list of others, and now Ireland, after 111 years of teeth-gnashing inducing Rugby Union defeats to New Zealand, many of which were oh so close, and one draw, finally triumphed.
Retrospectively speaking, things did seem quite ripe for the picking from the moment the starting side was announced. A threequarter line of Savea, Moala and Naholo looked a bit ‘tender’ and suddenly with Kaino in at lock, things looked a bit more green (if you’ll pardon the irony). The return clash in Dublin in two weeks should be some game. You can be sure the ABs’ management will be naming their strongest possible line-up for that encounter, more so than ever after yesterday.
Ireland were smarter and more inspired almost from the outset. And they were more desperate- two standout examples in the closing stages coming from Rob Kearney and Conor Murray. Kearney halted a likely-looking New Zealand attack inside Ireland’s 22 with brilliant reactions in stooping to grab a kick through with at least three All Blacks lining up to score, and Murray’s spot-like tackle on the much bigger Julian Savea behind the All Blacks’ goalline in the last few minutes was a wonder- he fair pulverised him. It was from that very tackle and resultant five metre scrum that Ireland’s decisive, winning try was scored.
And almost based on that single performance, the British and Irish Lions hierarchy should seriously consider Rory Best as their captain and first choice rake for next year. He was surely the best player out there on Soldier Field yesterday
Chris Rattue in the Herald also made a valid point when he opined that TJ Perenara was a better fit for the halfback starting berth over Aaron Smith, due to Perenara’s better robustness to counteract the particular combative and physical nature of the Irish forwards, as well for his often superior running game and with Smith being short on top-level matchplay due to that infamous lavatory detour.
So there it was, the triple nelson- 111 years. Think of all those Irish greats that came before and never got to experience what those men in the emerald green did yesterday. Men like Jackie Kyle, Tony O’Reilly, Mike Gibson, Willie John McBride, Tony Ward, Keith Wood and Brian O’Driscoll. About time, too.
Though it wasn’t the first time an Irish team had defeated the All Blacks. That honour belongs to Munster, on Halloween Day 1978 at Thomond Park, Limerick. And they tore into us on that day too, as 1978 All Blacks Grand slammer Stu Wilson recalls:
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