In an MVP performance, Irish flanker Peter O’Mahony was instrumental in a historic Irish Rugby win over New Zealand on home soil.
On home soil too, as this was the first victory in Dublin in over 100 years of trying. This comes after their meritorious 2016 victory away from home in Chicago. But to win in front of their fans, will taste even sweeter for the Irish rugby team.
Many players names can be mentioned, but the list begins with Peter O’Mahony, who was imperious in the breakdown and across the field. The above highlights package shows him turning over ball, but it also shows the flanker rebounding in defence to deny Ben Smith an opportunity to score. That commitment was exhibited by all 23 Irish rugby players, and was the key to victory.
Ireland 16 – Try: Jacob Stockdale; Conversion: Jonny Sexton: Penalties: Sexton (2)
New Zealand 9 – Penalties: Beauden Barrett (2); Drop goal: Barrett
One statistic that stands out in the game, is that New Zealand failed to score any tries. Not since the British and Irish Lions second test, have the All Blacks been held from crossing the line. The sensational Irish defence caused that, as much as the New Zealand team playing at less than their full potential.
Yet the Irish Rugby players, all played over themselves. Played with intensity, with a desire to use their strengths and to not let the player get past them. Their collective belief was undeniable, in front of 60,000 fans at Aviva Stadium, in Dublin.
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) November 17, 2018
Captain Rory Best explained to SkySports, how this current Irish Rugby team has developed into world beaters. “I think over the years, Irish rugby teams have always had physicality, always had the ‘huff and puff’ but Joe [Schmidt] has given us discipline, and organization. And that has allowed us to have a lot of belief.
“Belief in that in the latter part of the week, we know what we have got to do, and then it is just about delivering it physically.”
That is where the Irish Rugby team delivered. Physically, they dominated their New Zealand opponents. For the majority of the first half, Ireland were inside the New Zealand half, were on the attack and on one occasion, the tiniest of fumbles denied Rob Kearney from scoring a try.
Massive first half effort by Irish Rugby team
While a 9-6 lead after 40 minutes does not seem like a comfortable margin, the Irish men had outplayed their rivals. They survived up to 13 phases of All Blacks attack, before turning over key ball. It meant that the pressure they applied, bore rewards in the confidence shown by all 15 players – epitomized by the massive effort of Peter O’Mahony.
Best said that “when you are playing a team like the All Blacks, you have got to attack them. We knew we had to attack them. We talked at halftime, we needed to score a try. In 2016 when we played here [Dublin] we played quite well, but we didn’t score a try, and they outscored us”. So he would be pleased how the 2018 side were able to rectify, and learn from those lessons.
Ireland Captain Rory Best says “it took a mighty effort to win” and that he’s “physically exhausted but mentally ecstatic and this is another bit of history for the squad”. Ireland beat the All Blacks 16-9 in Dublin @1NewsNZ pic.twitter.com/GsIMksJzgA
— Joy Reid (@JoyReidTVNZ) November 17, 2018
And over the years, close losses to New Zealand have seen Ireland play with courage, but never ‘complete the task’. On this day, they led the World Champions from start to finish, and only a late surge by New Zealand was cause for the home own fans to feel nervous.
Apart from a few breakouts, the All Blacks were less effective than usual. Some poor kicking and handling errors made for a tough night for Kieran Read and his men. The captain had one opportunity, but after a charge down, he was unable to control the ball.
Chances like that increased towards the end of the game, but the All Blacks were not as convincing in trying to chase the result (as they were against England). It was a ‘bridge too far’ and it was Irish eyes that were smiling in Dublin.
Joe Schmidt talks of team ‘earning the Victory’
Irish Rugby are at a level now, that players and fans expect victory. Yet, ever the realist, head coach Joe Schmidt told SkySport that his team had to work hard all week, in earning their Victory on Saturday. “It’s satisfying from the perspective of, watching how they trained all week, how they were preparing, how they rolled their sleeves up.
The way young guys like Kieran Marmion stepped into the gap left by Conor Murray. A late change needed, bring Josh van der Flier in place of Dan Levy. I thought he was enormous in the amount of energy he brought.”
And Schmidt could name all his starting players and reserves, who all contributed to the teams first home victory over the All Blacks. Schmidt admitted that on home soil, it was a superb occasion. “We were playing at home. They blew away the last time we met, They were so vociferous in their support. That’s fantastic for us,” and post-game, social media exploded with sentiments of congratulations to Irish Rugby on what they had achieved.
He also pointed to how, on any given day, both these teams; ranked first and second in the World Rugby rankings, could outperform the other. He appreciated how his team defeated the All Blacks 16-9 but, qualified it by saying “on any given day, you’ve got to be up with your game. We were struggling against Argentina last week, and we get a win this week. That’s the ebb and flow of test match footy.
If you are not dialed in [which Irish rugby was on the day], I know the All Blacks nearly ran over the top of us near the end of the game. You know, you could throw the cards back up on the table again next week, and it could be a totally different result.”
He knows; like Steve Hansen will too, that the gap between the sides is closer than ever. Ireland have scored two wins, out of the last three meetings. But over the 30 times previously, the New Zealand team had won 28 times before.
Irish Rugby fans enjoy a Night to Remember
When Jacob Stockdale crossed the line in the second half, Irish fans belief was rewarded. The roar of delight was all across Ireland, and across the rugby world. The youngster scored his eighth test try in 12 months, and is a player who will enjoy a night to remember.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 17, 2018
Fans will toast their side, and with one last final test match against the United States to enjoy in 2018, it will be an era that may be recalled as the step towards the dream objective.
Irish Rugby will come back stronger in 2019, looking to defend their Six Nations title, and to aim towards a dream run at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. If they perform as well as they have on this day, then the odds are that they will reach the Cup final.
On the reverse side, the All Blacks face Italy next Saturday. They will want to repair the failure to score – fans will look for more than a good performance. If they cam respond positively, then in 2019 New Zealand can face The Rugby Championship hoping to change their game, to assist their goal of going far in the World Cup.
This test had the feel of a Grand Final, a world-class match and with the parity which Irish Rugby have gained on New Zealand, an expected Rugby World Cup final between these two sides would finally prove, who is rugby’s best of the best.