Ireland stun N Zealand to claim first win over All Blacks
CHICAGO: Ireland ended a centurylong losing streak to claim a historic first-ever win over New Zealand here Saturday, sending the All Blacks spinning to a 40-29 defeat with a scintillating display. Just days after the Windy City erupted in celebration after the Chicago Cubs landed their first World Series baseball crown in 108 years, Ireland booted their own 111-year rugby hoodoo firmly into touch.
Roared on by army of green-clad fans in a 62,300 crowd at Soldier Field, the Irish outscored the All Blacks by five tries to four to seal their first win over the Kiwis in the 29th instalment of a rivalry dating to 1905.
“It has been a long time coming and history (has been) made. We’re absolutely ecstatic,” Ireland skipper Rory Best said after leading his team on a raucous lap of honor at the famed NFL venue.
“We knew they are a great side. You can see how good a side they are and how much it means to our boys to have won that.” Ireland were forced to cling on in the closing stages after a ferocious New Zealand fightback, which saw the All Blacks recover from a 30-8 deficit to go within four points at 33-29 with around 15 minutes to go.
But with the crowd roaring them home, Ireland scored a fifth and final try through outstanding center Robbie Henshaw, converted by replacement flyhalf Joey Carbery, to clinch a famous victory. It was New Zealand’s first defeat since their loss to Australia in August 2015. Only last month, the All Blacks had set a world record for consecutive victories with their 18th win in a row. New Zealand’s preparations for the Test had been thrown into disarray by the absence through injury of first choice locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock. The further absence of second row Luke Romano following a family bereavement had forced them into starting a makeshift pairing of Jerome Kaino and Patrick Tuipulotu. But New Zealand coach Steve Hansen refused to blame the injury crisis for the loss. “The right side won,” Hansen said. “The Irish side played very well and congratulations to them. “We don’t want to use (the injuries) as an excuse. We trained well enough, we prepared well enough, we thought. We’re not going to make any excuses about not having the right people.”