This past weekend marked the start of the autumn internationals where the Southern Hemisphere teams travel to the North in a battle to see whose brand of rugby is superior. The rugby powerhouses of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina will all be in action against the Six Nations countries in the coming weeks, along with smaller nations such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga also touring.
Ireland had a tough opening game against the mighty All Blacks. However, in a slightly strange turn of events the neutral ground of Chicago, USA was where Ireland would take on New Zealand in an initiative to boost rugby in the States. Coming into the match the All Blacks looked almost invincible on the back of a record 18 match winning streak. Hopes of a vulnerable team in transition following the retirement of key players, such as Captain Richie McCaw and leading point scorer Dan Carter, after their 2015 World Cup triumph had been quickly extinguished in the past few months. A whitewash of Wales in the summer was similarly followed by dominance in the Rugby Championship, finishing with 30 out of 30 points and winning the tournament with two games in hand; sending out a clear message that the number one team in the world were going nowhere.
Whilst Ireland put themselves on the scoreboard first, through the boot of Jonny Sexton, it was the All Blacks that crossed the line for the first try of the game with an unconventional try. Ireland showed their ambition following Joe Moody’s sin binning for a tip tackle by kicking to corner. This ignited a fire under Ireland, taking full advantage of their extra man scoring twice during this period, the first from the lineout and the other from C.J Stander muscling his way over. Whilst their efficiency in attack gave them the lead, it was their ferocity in defence that kept the All Blacks from scoring. Poor defending by New Zealand also resulted in Conor Murray scoring, giving Ireland a 25-8 lead at half time.
Although New Zealand started the second half with much more tempo, Ireland scored first with Simon Zebo extending their lead to 30-8. However the number one team in the world fought back in typical fashion scoring three tries in the next 15 minutes, with Ireland only managing a penalty kick during this time, to bring the score to 33-29. Ireland’s ferocious defence re-emerged late in the game to deny New Zealand anymore points and with four minutes to go Robbie Henshaw’s late, converted try sealed a historic win for Ireland.
This is the first time in 29 attempts that Ireland have managed a win against New Zealand and the All Blacks will be keen to keep it that way. They will get their chance at revenge in two weeks, although this may prove more difficult since Ireland will have home advantage. The All Blacks will be playing for pride, whilst Ireland will be hoping to repeat their historic win and celebrate on home turf with their supporters. More records could be broken with the All Blacks not having lost twice in a calendar year since 2011 and also have not lost to the same team twice in a year since 2009, where Australia beat them in the Tri-Nations.
Photo Credit: AAP