Sunday 26 February 2017

All Blacks' brutal revenge in bruising battle

Wayne O'Connor and Mark O'Regan

LOTS OF HEART: Simon Zebo of Ireland is tackled by Liam Squire of New Zealand. Photo: Ramsey Cardy. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
LOTS OF HEART: Simon Zebo of Ireland is tackled by Liam Squire of New Zealand. Photo: Ramsey Cardy. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Raw physical power and astonishing resilience in defence brought New Zealand sweet revenge in the cauldron of the Aviva Stadium last night.

This was trench warfare and Ireland went over the top with bravery and epic heroism, but they could not score a try. Yet it was an honourable defeat in a game that will live long in the memory - for the fury of the physical exchanges the ferocity of the tackling and the utter commitment of both sides.

New Zealand withstood Ireland's second-half storm and then struck on 66 minutes with a try that broke Irish hearts, though the final pass looked suspiciously illegal. The Haka had been laced with deadly Kiwi intent and they simply exploded in the first few moments.

In those frenetic opening minutes they did to us, on home turf, what we did to them in Chicago just two weeks ago when we ended an 111-year wait for a win over the All Blacks. Clearly wounded New Zealand pride was on the line in this encounter.

If they felt we bullied them at the breakdown in the Windy City, they were determined it wasn't going to happen again. Within three minutes the kingpins of world rugby put down a powerful marker with a sublime try.

An exquisite Jamie Heaslip touch set up a sweet move which almost got Ireland over the line in response. But a Jonathan Sexton penalty in the ninth minute signalled the boys in green were more than up for a fight. The level of physicality was astonishing. And it was the home side who were paying the price.

Robbie Henshaw left the field in the 10th minute, after turning into a borderline high tackle which had the home fans booing their discontent. A second New Zealand try in the 14th minute was also strongly disputed. An enthralling encounter and the home side will feel some of the marginal refereeing decisions went against them. FInal score, Ireland 9, New Zealand 21.

Sunday Independent

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