Saturday 18 November 2017

Aaron Cruden: 'It was the biggest kick of my life'

New Zealand's get-out-of-jail victory over Ireland did not just come down to a re-set conversion, according to goal-kicker Aaron Cruden.

The Kiwi fly-half admitted a slice of fortune in referee Nigel Owens ordering a retake after he fluffed a first attempt at the winning conversion in overtime on Sunday.

Ryan Crotty's last-gasp try levelled the game at 22-22, before Chiefs fly-half Cruden shanked the conversion.

Ireland had started their chase too early though, handing Cruden the immediate reprieve that confirmed New Zealand's 14th-consecutive victory and the perfect season.

Crotty said he expected Ireland to be aware of his stutter kick-approach, which has caught out opponents rushing up early in the past.

But he said New Zealand's victory owed everything to their never-say-die attitude.

He said: "I was pretty stoked to get a second opportunity.

"My kicking style didn't change throughout the game so you would have thought they would be aware of my set-up and that little stutter I do to calm myself.

"It was a shame they charged early but for us, it was great to have another chance and see it go over.

"The fact we can produce a comeback like that, it says so much about this team, and the All Blacks' ability to produce when it matters most.

"You can sense runners coming as you line up the kick but you're trying to stay focused on the task.

"But I was pretty stoked to get a second crack at it.

"I suppose it was a reprieve, I just wanted to stay focused, stay in my rhythm and strike the ball well.

"And I was pretty happy to see the flags go up after I'd kicked it.

"I would say that is the biggest kick of my life yeah.

"I don't think it comes down to the kick: with 30 seconds to go we were able to get a penalty and launch an attack.

"We stayed to our gameplan, identify space on the left and get over in the corner.

"There was a lot of work done previous to that that helped get into the history books."

England's 38-21 victory at Twickenham this time last year ruined New Zealand's bid for a perfect 2012.

Cruden said taking that elusive extra step just 12 months on makes rewriting professional-era history all the sweeter.

He said: "The Irish outplayed us for 70 minutes.

"Being a kicker I really felt for him at that moment.

"We wanted to put in a quality performance to finish the tour but that wasn't it.

"I guess 12 months ago we were in a similar position and we folded, so the grit to fight back showed through at the end this time.

"Last year we were so close but so far away.

"So to achieve it 12 months on is fantastic.

"There's always more to come, teams are upping their game all the time so we've got to keep improving."

Press Association

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