Watch all the tries as All Blacks are beaten 32-22 in an incredible match in Wellington
Epic Ireland series win in New Zealand
Having lost the first Test in Auckland, they bounced back in Dunedin to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time. Now they have made yet more history after sealing the series with a 32-22 victory in Wellington.
It’s the first time the All Blacks have lost back-to-back home Tests since 1998 – and the pressure will surely mount on coach Ian Foster after this result.
Yet this is a day to celebrate all that Ireland have achieved. There had been plenty of talk of a backlash from the hosts pre-game, but there was absolutely no sign of it in the first 40 minutes.
It was an incredible first-half performance from Ireland and they led 22-3 at the break. New Zealand looked rattled – and no wonder.
Their lineout was struggling, their attack couldn’t find a way through the resolute Irish defence and their discipline continued to let them down. In contrast, Ireland were slick and quick in attack and rock-solid without the ball.
Where the visitors were creative, the hosts looked shorn of ideas – the high ball appeared to be their go-to option in attack and that has rarely, if ever, been said about a New Zealand team!
The All Blacks, with Ardie Savea to the fore, came out firing in the second period and at one point had narrowed the gap to just three points, but the Irish were able to close out a famous victory.
Head coach Andy Farrell said afterwards that winning a series in New Zealand is “probably the toughest thing to do in world rugby”. So how did Ireland do it?
Epic Ireland series win in New Zealand
What. A. Match.
Ireland scored three tries in the first half, all different in style, all supremely well-crafted.
As in Auckland and Dunedin, the Irish struck early with Josh van der Flier powering over in the fourth minute as part of a strong lineout drive. ABs captain Sam Cane was the one who gave away the penalty that led to that lineout.
Then just before the half-hour mark, Ireland exploited New Zealand down the blindside – and it all came from a van der Flier turnover in his own 22.
From disrupting the All Blacks’ attack, Ireland were awarded a penalty and then launched from a lineout in the opposition half.
James Lowe made good ground down the blindside before Bundee Aki came back towards the midfield. Then when the ball was recycled, Ireland went to the blindside once more: Mack Hansen to Lowe and back inside to Hugo Keenan, who burst through to touch down despite having Will Jordan and Aaron Smith tackling him.
Johnny Sexton converted from the touchline and added three points soon after – this time another of New Zealand’s leaders, Beauden Barrett, had conceded the penalty.
The third try of the half was arguably the best, the clever move executed with pinpoint accuracy. And it came from putting yet more pressure on New Zealand in their own 22 and forcing a knock-on.
From the ensuing scrum, Keenan and Caelan Doris took the ball up before Ireland shifted play in the other direction. Crisp passes from Dan Sheehan to Sexton to Bundee Aki to Robbie Henshaw, who had an easy run-in.
Ireland were firmly in control at the break but Savea led the All Blacks’ fightback in the second half, the hosts showing far more purpose with ball in hand.
The No 8 twisted through the Irish defence to score a 44th-minute try after a spell of pressure in the visitors’ 22 from the restart.
Then they were able to capitalise on a numerical advantage after Andrew Porter was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Brodie Retallick.
Referee Wayne Barnes said Porter “absorbed” the tackle, so while he was upright and there was direct contact to the head, it was a yellow, rather than a red, card.
From the subsequent lineout, Akira Ioane – a late call-up to the starting XV following an injury to Scott Barrett – bust through a Sheehan tackle and then evaded van der Flier, Tadhg Furlong and Hansen to score his first Test try.
The gap was down to just three points going into the final quarter. Sexton had slotted a penalty but another had ricocheted off the crossbar. Then came some magic from Will Jordan.
Taking a pop pass from Savea on his own 22, Jordan then burst clear and angled his run to avoid Ireland’s chasing defenders. His try made it 25-22 to Ireland, with the conversion missed.
Then Savea conceded a penalty close to his own line, allowing Ireland to launch from another five-metre lineout.
Rob Herring splintered off the back of the maul and somehow burrowed through a trio of New Zealand defenders to ground the ball on the line. Sexton’s conversion gave Ireland a ten-point lead with 15 minutes to go.
New Zealand came in waves in those closing minutes and there were several crucial pressure-relieving moments from Ireland.
First they disrupted a five-metre scrum and closed down the hosts’ ball-carriers. One opportunity gone.
Then Tadhg Beirne won a turnover as Jordan broke into the 22. Another opportunity gone.
It was Beirne key again after Savea took a quick tap penalty and the lock led a counter-ruck that resulted in another turnover. A third opportunity gone.
They had a final chance in the 79th minute when awarded a penalty in their 22, but they looked as shorn of ideas as they had in the first half after taking a quick tap. Ioane knocked on, Ireland won the scrum and Joey Carbery kicked the ball off the field to end the match.
Sexton, who became the eighth player to score 1,000 points in Test rugby during this match, spoke afterwards of doing Ireland “proud”. This team have certainly done that, becoming one of only a handful of sides to win a series in New Zealand.
And come Monday they will officially become the No 1 team in the world. This result means that Ireland will overtake France at the top of the World Rugby Rankings – only the second time they have reached the peak, the first being in September 2019.
It was an epic Ireland series win in New Zealand. No wonder Irish eyes were smiling – and crying.
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