Irish make history with victory over New Zealand
Ireland U20s 33 New Zealand U20s 24
Published 12/06/2016 | 02:30
What's rare is wonderful - and the few hundred Irish supporters in the Manchester City Academy Stadium danced in the rain with the jubilant players and management to hail an historic victory.
It is the first ever victory by an Irish national men's side over New Zealand, and sets Nigel Carolan's men up for a right crack at winning the World Rugby Under-20 Championship.
They were superb throughout and the win represents some turnaround from a side who were 17-0 down after 20 minutes on Tuesday night against Six Nations champions Wales - before coming back to win.
Now all Ireland need to do is beat Georgia on Wednesday night to be guaranteed a semi-final place for only the second time ever.
"It's hard to put words on it," admitted Carolan. "To beat the Six Nations and Grand Slam champions earlier in the week, and then to beat the world champions - to do that in one week has been massive for us.
"The momentum has come off the back of the Wales game. We had enormous confidence and great belief and we were trying to instil that in the lads in the last couple of days. They reflected that in how they performed. They were absolutely superb for 80 minutes."
Indeed, it has been some fortnight for Carolan - he is also the Connacht academy manager, with several of Pat Lam's Pro12-winning squad coming through that system.
Ireland, having started encouragingly, had hooker Adam McBurney harshly binned for a deliberate knock-on in the opening half, and the Baby Blacks made the most of their extra man to build up a 14-6 lead. Jordie Barrett, younger brother of All Black Beauden, got their opening try on 10 minutes after Bill Johnston had encouragingly edged Ireland in front with a third-minute penalty.
Johnston cut the gap to a point with his second penalty after 16 minutes, but Shaun Stevenson pushed the champions back in front after McBurney's yellow card, with Barrett expertly setting him up down the right wing.
But Ireland never panicked. They felt before the game they had an edge up front on New Zealand, and so it proved, relentlessly targeting in the set-piece.
It paid a big dividend, with Greg Jones getting over for Ireland's first try after 28 minutes following a superb lineout move from a penalty to the right corner.
McBurney made a big impact on his return, peeling away from a maul after another good lineout drive, and he made it to the left corner. Johnston landed both difficult conversions for Ireland to lead 20-14 at the break.
However, Johnston - who missed the Six Nations with a shoulder injury - suffered a knock to it two minutes after the restart and had to go off, having landed four kicks from four.
Johnny McPhillips replaced him and duly hit three from three, the last being the only easy one, but it was a score which denied New Zealand a losing bonus point.
McPhillips' first kick after 47 minutes from 40 metres made it 23-14, and Ireland continued to grow in confidence.
Malo Tuitama got the first of two tries - he was fortunate not to be binned for a knock-on which was very similar to McBurney's - to leave four points between them going into the final quarter.
Ireland continued to press forward, their line-speed superb, and Max Deegan struck a telling blow nine minutes from time when he broke off the base of a scrum in the left corner. McPhillips converted to make it 30-19 before Tuitama got his second try to leave just six between the sides with six minutes remaining.
But Ireland were not to be denied - and McPhillips made it safe with a penalty in front of the posts which was won by the superb scrum.
Scorers - Ireland: G Jones, A McBurney, M Deegan tries; B Johnston 2, J McPhillips pens; B Johnston 2, J McPhillips cons. New Zealand: J Barrett, S Stevenson, M Tuitama 2 tries; J Barrett 2 cons.
Ireland: J Stockdale; M Byrne, S Daly, C O'Brien (J O'Brien 27-34), H Keenan; B Johnston (J McPhillips 37), S Kerins; A Porter, A McBurney (V O'Brien 63), B Betts (V Abdaladze 63); C Gallagher (S O'Connor 77), J Ryan; G Jones, D Aspil (V O'Brien 20-30), M Deegan.
New Zealand: J Trainor; S Stevenson, P Tomkinson (J Lowe 51), J Barrett, M Tuitama; S Perofeta (TJ Va'a 43), S Nock (J Taumateine 72); A Johnstone (S Paranihi 67), L Apisai (A Aumua 59), S Kautai (A Fidow 59); Q Strange, I Walker-Leawere (H Dalzell 70); L Jacobson, M Jacobson, M Mikaele-Tu'u.
Referee: C Maxwell-Keys (England)
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