Jacob Stockdale try proves the difference as Ireland secure only second-ever victory over All Blacks
Historic win for Ireland over New Zealand in Dublin
Jacob Stockdale scored a sublime try and Ireland’s defence was resolute as they beat New Zealand 16-9 in an epic match in Dublin.
The hugely vocal Aviva Stadium crowd – louder than Rugby World can ever recall them being – were celebrating Ireland’s second-ever victory over the All Blacks and their first on home soil after 80 minutes of power, pace and pressure. Joe Schmidt described the crowd as “phenomenal”.
It was New Zealand who seemed to succumb to that pressure more as key players made uncharacteristic errors – the likes of Kieran Read and Brodie Retallick knocking on, and Beauden Barrett passing the ball to Rob Kearney in the Ireland 22 at one point.
You could argue that the All Blacks were off form or tired, but the pressure Ireland exerted surely played a part and forced at least some of those mistakes. It was an absorbing match and one when the men in green allowed their opponents little room to create attacks and exert their usual dominance.
Ireland were not as comfortable in the closing minutes as they were when beating New Zealand in Chicago two years ago, but they scrambled well and continued to halt the tourists on the gain-line.
Incredibly, it’s the first time since 1995 that a northern hemisphere nation has kept New Zealand tryless in a Test match. Andy Farrell, Ireland’s defence coach, certainly has a knack for shutting down the All Blacks machine, being involved in England’s win in 2012, Ireland’s in 2016 and 2018, and the Lions’ in 2017.
The decisive moment came in the 49th minute when Stockdale crossed for his 12th try in 14 Tests – some record.
It was a set play from a lineout, Peter O’Mahony tapping the ball down off the top and Johnny Sexton then switching play back to Bundee Aki, who launched a long pass to Stockdale. The winger then chipped over the All Blacks defence, regathered the ball and stretched over the line despite the tackle of Aaron Smith.
Sexton’s conversion gave Ireland a 16-6 lead with half an hour to go and the irony was that just minutes earlier Stockdale had nearly gifted a try to New Zealand.
Read charged down Stockdale’s kick but then knocked the ball on as the space opened up in front of him. Another of those uncharacteristic errors.
The All Blacks closed the gap with a penalty in the final quarter and put on the pressure at the lineout as Ireland’s set-piece struggled following the departure of Devin Toner. Yet they never really came close to scoring a try.
Ireland’s defence gave New Zealand little time or space to manoeuvre, so they found it hard to make yards in contact and their handling was not up to its usual standards. Their kicking was inaccurate and looked to be on the backfoot at the scrum too.
Steve Hansen said they gave away “dumb” penalties in the first half, which gave Ireland field position and points, and added: “We showed courage and heart but the execution wasn’t as good as we liked.”
It was somewhat appropriate that the match ended with a Retallick knock-on in the 22 as New Zealand launched one final attack – and an attack that only offered the possible reward of a draw. Instead, it was a famous Irish victory.
And a victory achieved without first-choice scrum-half Conor Murray, centre Robbie Henshaw and flankers Sean O’Brien and Dan Leavy.
For Ireland, Sexton managed the game expertly, Bundee Aki carried hard and tackled hard, Garry Ringrose caused problems with ball in hand, and the pack continually broke tackles and showed impressive handling skills, with No 8 CJ Stander to the fore in midfield and Josh van der Flier doing the same in the wide channels.
New Zealand may still top the world rankings, but Ireland will end this year on a huge high – and start their final build-up to Japan 2019 with a lot of confidence.
And how refreshing for a match to actually live up to the hype.
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