New Zealand came from 19-0 down to beat Ireland 24-22 in an incredible game of rugby in Dublin on Sunday. With the win the All Blacks cement the record of the first ever top tier Test side in the professional era to win every match in a calendar year.
The visitors had to dig deep to snatch a late win, with replacement Ryan Crotty going over with time up. The TMO had to check both of the last two passes to see if they were forward, and once the try was awarded, Aaron Cruden had two shots at goal. This just wasn’t meant to be for Ireland.
They shot off to an early lead though, and the home crowd thought the impossible was happening as Ireland led 22-7 at halftime thanks to tries from Conor Murray, Rory Best and Rob Kearney. They didn’t score a point in the second half though, and Jonny Sexton missed a late penalty kick.
“I thought if that had gone over it would have been game over but instead it missed and I could feel our players get a lift from that,” said 124 Test All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. “The Irish guys then tried to eat up time but I have always felt as a player that can backfire and so it did here.”
Crotty’s try tied things up at 22-22, with Cruden tasked with attempting the conversion. He missed the first kick, but the Irish players charged too early, so referee Nigel Owens – who contributed greatly to a freeflowing game – allowed Cruden to have another shot, which he duly slotted.
In the history books this will go down as a 27th loss for Ireland against New Zealand, and while they have one draw to look back fondly on, this was an absolute heartbreaker for fans and players.
“This is probably the low point, for me, in my rugby career,” Gordon Darcy told irishrugby.ie. “That is one of the toughest games I have ever played in. They are not walking away from that saying that was an easy game.
“We talked a lot about the body language. I’d say over 50% of the game we won the body language battle that was going on. They had the hands on hips. They were blowing out their ass and we were winning those battles. You just have to be a little more clinical maybe,” he added.
The fairytale year for the All Blacks ended magically, almost defying belief. They’ve now won 14 from 14, and having taken an approach that involves blooding young players and rotating their squad regularly, this group looks well placed two years out from the next World Cup.
The Irish deserve massive plaudits though, and Steve Hansen was quick to pay them their dues.
“I’d like to compliment Ireland on a sensational performance, they rattled us and had us 15 points down. They were outstanding,” he said. “That wasn’t in the script, that is for sure. It [the manner of victory] was special and is a great achievement. It has been a great year.”