The Sunday News
Ireland: (9) 16
|Tries: Stockdale Cons: Sexton Pens: Sexton 3|
|New Zealand: (6) 9|
|Pens: Barrett 2 Drop Goal: Barrett|
Ireland have beaten New Zealand on home soil for the first time with a frenzied 16-9 win at the Aviva Stadium.
Jacob Stockdale’s superb chip-and-gather try decided an absorbing contest between the top two sides in the world.
Johnny Sexton advanced his claims for the world player of the year award with the rest of Ireland’s points.
The Grand Slam champions added to their historic first win over the All Blacks in 2016 as they sent out a warning before next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Stockdale’s try pushed his side into a 10-point lead in the 49th minute and they produced a heroic defensive display, led by man-of-the-match Peter O’Mahony, to repel the inevitable New Zealand fightback as ‘The Fields of Athenry’ rang through the Dublin night.
A game of tiny margins was ultimately decided by a moment of brilliance from Stockdale which had Joe Schmidt’s imprint all over it.
Off a 10-metre line-out – Ireland’s favourite attacking platform – the home side swung the ball towards the right before Bundee Aki dramatically switched direction and fed Stockdale down the narrow side.
It left last season’s Six Nations player of the year facing a group of weary All Blacks who were still picking themselves up from the line-out.
The Ulster wing’s deft chip took them out of play and he won the sprint with Aaron Smith to gather and score the decisive try.
New Zealand indiscipline
The tone for a frenzied but absorbing contest was set from the off when the Irish team took a half-step towards the New Zealand haka and sent the crowd into overdrive.
The adrenaline coursed from the stands down onto the pitch, where New Zealand set a bewildering tempo, but a wonderful steal by Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander under their own posts helped Ireland to clear the danger.
The All Blacks were living dangerously without the ball and repeatedly were warned for offside by referee Wayne Barnes as a penalty count of 9-2 against the visitors told its own story.
Sexton and Beauden Barrett traded early scores but the home side were unquestionably on top with Stockdale and Garry Ringrose looking menacing with every possession.
Sexton nudged Ireland back ahead before Barrett landed a wonderful drop-goal to keep his side in touch after Cian Healy had been held up over the line and Rob Kearney had knocked-on in the act of scoring at the other end.
Ireland dominated the second quarter after a superb gather-and-go by Stockdale brought them into the opposition half and they appeared determined not to leave without a try.
A cross kick to Stockdale did not succeed but New Zealand’s creaking defence continued to concede penalties and Kieran Read was warned about his team’s indiscipline as Sexton eventually settled for a penalty to give his side a 9-6 half-time lead.
O’Mahony and Sexton stand firm
Stockdale’s try was the score Ireland deserved for their first-half domination and – crucially – pushed them more than a converted try ahead.
But New Zealand are not the world’s number one side for no reason and the black jerseys began to gather momentum in the final quarter.
Reiko Ioane cut a dangerous figure with ball in hand and Kearney had to scamper back to gather Ardie Savea’s kick through.
Next it was O’Mahony’s turn to save the day as the Munster captain somehow managed to pivot and dive on Barrett’s grubber, and minutes later he put his body on the line again to produce a brilliant turnover that lifted the siege and simultaneously forced him off the field with an injury.
Sexton conceded a penalty for a high tackle that allowed his opposite number to shrink the gap to seven points but the Ireland fly-half was fired up and he punched the air with a roar minutes later when he combined with Stockdale to bundle Ben Smith out of touch.
Sexton also departed before the end as the big hits continued to rain in but the Irish line held firm to clinch a momentous victory.
What they said:
Ireland’s man of the match Peter O’Mahony: “They’re not the number one team in the world for nothing. We probably had to play our best game of this term and thankfully we managed to do that.
“It’s a big piece of history and one that we wanted to tick off here in Ireland and now we have done it.”
Ireland captain Rory Best: “To stop New Zealand scoring a try shows what a fantastic effort it was. The boys are very tired in there but it’s amazing what a win like that can do to give you a little bit more energy.
“It’s a big result for us no matter what the context is. Yet again, we’ve raised the standard of what we expect. The problem is Joe and the team and going to expect that and more [from now on].”
Ireland: Kearney; Earls, Ringrose, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Marmion; Healy, Best (capt), Furlong; Toner, James Ryan; O’Mahony, Van der Flier, Stander.
Replacements: Cronin for Best (65), J McGrath for Healy (52), Porter for Furlong (65), Henderson for Toner (62), Murphy for O’Mahony (64), L McGrath for Marmion (59), Carbery for Sexton (77), Larmour for Kearney (66).
New Zealand: McKenzie; Smith, Goodhue, Crotty, Ioane; Barrett, Smith; Tu’inukuafe, Taylor, Franks; Whitelock, Retallick: Squire, Savea, Read (capt).
Replacements: Coles for Taylor (47), Tuungafasi for Tu’inukuafe (47), Laulala for Franks (47), S Barrett for Squire (32), Todd for Savea (74), Perenara for Smith (58), Mo’unga for McKenzie (56), Lienert-Brown for Crotty (62).
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)