Wednesday 29 March 2017

How the game was won

7.59

Kieran Reid of New Zealand leads the Haka. Photo: Getty
Kieran Reid of New Zealand leads the Haka. Photo: Getty

Tom Rooney

Following an instrumental rendition of Ireland's Call - oddly performed on the violin - the Irish players were ready to face the Haka.

In a rousing tribute to the late Anthony Foley, Ireland lined out in a figure of eight formation as TJ Perenara leads an almost feral Kapa o Pango. With the ceremonials disposed of, a sun-kissed Soldier Field braces itself for the battle to come.

Conor Murray celebrates scoring Ireland's third try. Photo: Sportsfile
Conor Murray celebrates scoring Ireland's third try. Photo: Sportsfile

8.04

New Zealand concede the first of 12 penalties and Johnny Sexton opts against putting points on the board early and thumps one just shy of the All Black 22. Within a minute, the world champions are again on the wrong side of referee Mathieu Raynal. Sexton slots the subsequent kick to draw first blood.

IRELAND 3 NEW ZEALAND 0

8.08

Blink for a second and they will punish you. Waisake Naholo slaloms through the Irish defence, the ball manages to spill forward off Kieran Read's face and George Moala touches down. Far from a vintage All Black score, but Ireland have been put on notice. After the TMO confirms the try was legitimate, Beauden Barrett's kicking malaise from their win over Australia continues as he misses the conversion.

IRELAND 3 NEW ZEALAND 5

8.14

Prop Joe Moody takes Robbie Henshaw off his feet and dumps him into the Chicago turf. Raynal consults his TMO again and Moody is promptly sent to the bin. He should consider himself lucky that's where the matter ended.

Ireland go to the corner from yet another penalty. Rory Best's line-out is precise and Ireland form the maul, which rumbles forward immediately allowing Jordi Murphy to restore Ireland's lead. Sexton adds the conversion.

IRELAND 10NEW ZEALAND 5

8.26

The much-maligned Rob Kearney bursts through a flimsy All Black line and is eventually put to ground, but CJ Stander is on hand to burrow over. Sexton misses the conversion but Ireland have registered 14 points during Moody's stint in the bin.

IRELAND 17 NEW ZEALAND 5

8.38

Jordi Murphy goes down in agony with a ligament injury and there is a long break in play as the Leinster man is treated. Josh van der Flier replaces him, while the All Blacks re-group after Ryan Crotty, the man who broke Irish hearts in 2013, limps off.

8.51

Sexton sends a booming Garryowen into the Chicago skyline, which Conor Murray fields with aplomb. From the ensuing ruck, Murray spots the slightest of gaps and ghosts through Aaron Smith to score a try from nothing. Evidently in some discomfort, Sexton sends over the conversion. The men in black look all too human, while those in green can smell blood. Ireland head for the break just 40 minutes away from ending 111 years of hurt.

IRELAND 25 NEW ZEALAND 8

9.16

As Beauden Barrett gets the second half underway, it's impossible not to think back to 2013, when Ireland had racked up another seemingly unassailable lead.

9.25

Unlike that crushing afternoon at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland register points in the second half, and with some style for that matter. Another marauding maul from the pack and Murray hits Sexton on the short side, before the fly-half delays his pass wonderfully for Simon Zebo to cross over. Pandemonium ensues, but the plot will soon thicken.

IRELAND 30 NEW ZEALAND 8

9.29

In a rare trip into the Irish 22, Dane Coles offloads beautifully for the onrushing Perenara, who sprints over. Barrett nails the conversion and, suddenly, the spectre of 27 previous losses looms large.

IRELAND 30 NEW ZEALAND 15

9.36

It all starts to look worryingly familiar as the All Blacks strike again. Barrett powers between Irish defenders before finding Ben Smith with an incredible offload and he dives over in the corner.

Barrett slots the conversion. Deputising for the injured Sexton, Murray then sends over a vital penalty.

Sexton can't continue, so the 21-year-old Joey Carbery, a member of Leinster's academy, must steer the ship for the final quarter.

IRELAND 33 NEW ZEALAND 22

9.44

New Zealand's pack is barely recognisable following a number of changes, including the introduction of debutant lock Scott Barrett, brother of Beauden, who charges through a porous Irish line to score. His older brother makes it a one-score game from the conversion and, to quote Alex Ferguson, it's squeaky bum time.

IRELAND 33 NEW ZEALAND 29

9.59

The All Blacks have Ireland under siege but Andrew Trimble stems the tide by smashing Liam Squire, who can't help but knock on. Ireland go wide from the scrum and Zebo chips forward. Julian Savea is forced to turn to deal with the kick but is bundled over the line by a host of Irish chasers led by the phenomenal Murray. As has been the case all day, the Irish scrum is rock solid.

Jamie Heaslip picks and goes and pops one out as Robbie Henshaw comes into the line like a train to barge over for the match-winning score. Carbery slots the conversion to make it 40-29.

Ireland have finally done it.

IRELAND 40 NEW ZEALAND 29

Irish Independent

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