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Thursday 13 December 2018

Tadhg part of history

Front row favourite excels as All Blacks beaten in Aviva

Tadhg Furlong is tackled by Codie Taylor during Saturday’s epic encounter in the Aviva Stadium
Tadhg Furlong is tackled by Codie Taylor during Saturday’s epic encounter in the Aviva Stadium
ITadhg savours the atmosphere afterwards

Brendna Furlong

It was a performance that casts him to the top of tight head props in world rugby.

The big man from Campile, Tadhg Furlong, showed his worth in the scrum and in loose play as he became part of history when Ireland defeated New Zealand 16-9 for a first-ever victory over the world's top side on Irish soil on Saturday.

Furlong first left a huge imprint on the international scene in Chicago two years ago with a man of the match performance as Ireland defeated their great rivals for the very first time, and he also starred with the Lions when they beat the All Blacks.

On Saturday he was prominent in the loose from the start, hitting the rucks with force and accuracy, and making the big carries as he steamrolled through the opposition.

Furlong hit the first scrum with such force that he lifted and drove his opposite number, Karl Tu'inikuafe, and that in turn energised the crowd. The Irish front row laid down the marker that they would not be bullied, and went on to control the set-pieces.

This must have been the game that Furlong was waiting for, as there is no better side to play against to show that you are the best tight head in the world. Carrying the ball with skill and pace, he showed the light pair of hands that one would associate with a centre, while his off-loads were fast and accurate.

When one has confidence and momentum, one can take on any opposition, and this sums up Furlong right now. He revelled in the atmosphere, confirming his status irrespective of what came at him, and capitalised on the opportunity to showcase his wonderful talents.

Ireland backed up their scrum performance from the victory over Argentina the previous week. Furlong had Tu'inukuafe in terrible trouble, and such was the dominance of the pack that one was surprised they did not go more for the scrum rather than the kicking into the corner.

This was the first time an Irish team dominated the All Blacks physically, but with ball-carriers like Furlong, James Ryan, Cian Healy, C.J. Stander and Peter O'Mahony, they were able to drive for the gain line.

Ireland were on the ropes at times in the last 15 minutes, losing three line-outs in a row which gave the All Blacks prolonged possession, but time and time again big tackles were made, while the visitors were repeatedly denied space.

The 26-year-old former New Ross player, who celebrated his birthday last Wednesday, has handled every challenge that has been thrown at him since he made his Test debut.

A product of the Leinster Academy and Irish under-age system, he had been tracked by Irish rugby for a long time, and was introduced into Joe Schmidt's squad for the last World Cup.

He has long become an established starter and is probably one of the first names, along with a handful of others, who are first down on Schmidt's team list.

Given the amount of times he carried the ball, his tackles all over the pitch, his technique and ability in the scrum, has has grown into the top tight head prop in the world.

This was a massive challenge for Furlong but his opposite number did not look his calm, ruthless self, having been demolished in the first scrum. This was a huge moment for Furlong in what was a tremendous atmosphere in the Aviva Stadium.

The giant prop had stamped his authority on proceedings, in case his rival had other ideas. It's not often that one sees such punishment dished out to an All Blacks front row. Furlong regularly offered himself as with ball in hand he trucked into the All Blacks, setting up quality ruck ball for his half-backs to work with.

Now just days out from the final November international against the U.S.A., and with the Six Nations to come in the new year, Furlong now has the world at his feet, as Ireland can dream of even greater days ahead.

Furlong endeared himself to the Irish support with his play both in the scrum and in the loose, and he was given a standing ovation when he was the last of the six starting front rows to be replaced.

Enniscorthy Guardian

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