Irish Examiner - Sport - - RUGBY -

A sec­ond win over the All Blacks in the last three meet­ings is a sig­nif­i­cant enough achieve­ment for Ire­land but what is even more sat­is­fy­ing is the team which got the job done this time around. Conor Mur­ray, Rob­bie Hen­shaw and Seán O’brien were joined on the in­jury list by Dan Leavy just the day be­fore kick-off. Con­sider also that when Ire­land beat New Zealand for the first time in Chicago in Novem­ber 2016, four of Sat­ur­day’s starters — Bundee Aki Garry Rin­grose, James Ryan and Ja­cob Stock­dale — as well as re­place­ments Jor­dan Lar­mour, Luke Mc­grath and An­drew Porter had yet to make their Test de­buts while the more ex­pe­ri­enced Peter O’ma­hony, Iain Hen­der­son and Keith Earls all missed the his­toric day at Sol­dier Field due to fit­ness, in­jury and sus­pen­sion is­sues re­spec­tively.

It all means that 32 Ir­ish­men have ex­pe­ri­enced vic­tory over the best team in the world and though three, Jamie Heaslip, Jared Payne and An­drew Trim­ble, have re­tired since 2016, that leaves a lot of what Sch­midt likes to call “big caps” in his pool from which to se­lect a World Cup squad next year.

Af­ter a week of prais­ing New Zealand’s prow­ess at set-pieces, Ire­land dis­man­tled ev­ery facet at the Aviva on Sat­ur­day. The sight of the All Black front row be­ing sub­sti­tuted en masse af­ter 47 min­utes was a good in­di­ca­tion that the scrum had not been go­ing well and penal­ties were be­ing con­ceded while Ire­land’s li­ne­out was a marked im­prove­ment on the pre­vi­ous week’s out­ing against Ar­gentina as Rory Best found his tar­gets 10 times out of 10. “The scrum, the line-out in that first half, jeez, it’s hard for an op­po­nent if our scrum, and those two or three re­ally good ones that we got, that builds pres­sure and it gives us con­fi­dence as well,” Sch­midt said of the set-piece that gave his side such a strong plat­form to put New Zealand on the back foot.

As mem­o­rable as Ire­land’s first ever win over the All Blacks was in Chicago two years ago, there was some­thing spe­cial about them re­peat­ing the feat on home soil, 113 years af­ter the first of 16 vis­its to Lans­downe Road ended in a 15-0 de­feat by the Orig­i­nal ABS. Ire­land had had just one draw to show for those first 15 con­tests with the renowned tourists, in 1973, but Sat­ur­day changed all that and what an at­mos­phere to pro­vide the back­drop.

It had been loud in 2013 when the All Blacks broke Ir­ish hearts to nick a 24-22 vic­tory. Yet from the first strains of Amhrán na bhfiann to the rous­ing ren­di­tion of the ‘Fields of Athenry’ which gave way to a thun­der­ous roar at the fi­nal whis­tle, Ire­land’s sup­port­ers did their team proud by pro­duc­ing a crack­ling elec­tric­ity through­out and Sch­midt was cer­tainly ap­pre­cia­tive of their ef­forts.

“It’s a bit spe­cial at home and it was a bit spe­cial tonight be­cause of what hap­pened in 2013, be­cause of how the crowd were. I thought the crowd were un­be­liev­able and if you need a 16th man, there’s not many bet­ter places to go than Aviva Sta­dium, Dublin.”

For all the con­fi­dence this 16-9 vic­tory will bring to the Ire­land camp head­ing to­wards the 2019 World Cup in Ja­pan, the re­sult has made the rest of the rugby world take no­tice of the way New Zealand were kept try­less and in sin­gle fig­ures for the first time since South Africa won 13-3 in Welling­ton in 1998. It was also the first time the All Blacks have been kept un­der 10 points since their 2011 World Cup fi­nal arm-wres­tle with France in Auck­land, though they won that won 8-7 to lift the tro­phy.

New Zealand’s de­feat also comes off the back of a Rugby Cham­pi­onship cam­paign in which they se­ri­ously tested by a resur­gent Ar­gentina and beaten by the Spring­boks once more in Welling­ton, al­most los­ing the re­turn fix­ture in Pre­to­ria when they trailed 30-18 with eight min­utes to play but com­ing back to win 32-30.

If the seeds of doubt sur­round­ing the All Blacks were sown dur­ing the sum­mer, there was an­other knock to the mys­tique of the sport’s most iconic brand nine days ago when they fell to an early 15-0 lead by Eng­land, only to scram­ble a 16-15 win.

New Zealand re­main favourites for Ja­pan 2019 but Ire­land’s de­served vic­tory makes next year’s cup less of a fore­gone con­clu­sion.

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