Gallant Ireland denied historic win by Crotty's late heroics
Ireland 22 New Zealand 24
After firing 27 blanks against New Zealand in over a century of trying Ireland were so close to hitting the target, before a full house in Lansdowne Road, they could almost reach out and touch it. Then Aaron Cruden took it away.
In a finish of incredible drama, the homewere within 20 seconds of victory, running down the clock, only to be penallised at a ruck 60 metres from their own line when Jack McGrath was doe for going off his feet. Stacking phase upon phase the Kiwis eventually opened enough room for replacement Ryan Crotty to squeeze in at the flag with what was a remarkable score, worthy of world champions.
The scored was referred upstairs - and came back positive - but when two Irish players charged early on Cruden's conversion - which he missed - referee Nigel Owens gave him another go - which he goaled. Watching on, Jonny Sexton will have been in turmoil for he had a shot to put Ireland more than one score clear, on 73 minutes, only to push it past the post.
The minimum Ireland needed was to be quickly out of the blocks but they never envisaged this sort of sprint. By 11 minutes they were 14-0 ahead playing a brand of rugby that New Zealand found irresistible. At yesterday's press conference Peter O'Mahony had spoken about the need to give the crowd something to support. It may have been an early afternoon kick off on a Sunday - hardly the ideal setting for crowd participation - but the full house were on board from the start.
Relentless driving and continuity opened the door for Conor Murray for the first try, on five minutes, barging his way over from a ruck a few metres out. Then six minutes later Rory Best got over after a glorious set-piece move opened a huge hole in the New Zealand defence.
Once through the gap it was outstanding support play from Cian Healy and Murray before the scrumhalf fed Best about 10 metres out for the hooker to ride one tackle and score. Sexton goaled both conversions to leave the All Blacks' 20 points' spread bet under massive strain.
First the World champions needed to get back in the game but before the first quarter was up they had fallen further behind. Before this game Rob Kearney had been in real trouble with a rib injury but when his brother Dave forced a spill from Isreal Dagg, the full back scooped the ball up and made it home from 70 metres. Sexton's conversion hit the post and despite the whirlwind start you wondered if those two points would come back to haunt Ireland.
It was inevitable that the All Blacks would get some time on the ball and perhaps that barrelling wing Julian Savea would be the man to make it count. He latched onto a lovely grubber from the excellent Aaron Cruden on 26 minutes and the outhalf's conversion made it 19-7. Sexton tacked on another penalty before the break but New Zealand owned the third quarter with a penalty from Cruden as well as a conversion of Ben Franks's try.
That left Ireland ahead by five going down the final straight. Not enough distance to save then from being caught.
Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (L Fitzgerald 53), G D'Arcy, D Kearney; J Sexton (I Madigan 76), C Murray; C Healy (J McGrath 70), R Best (S Cronin 15), M Ross (D Fitzpatrick 65), D Toner (M McCarthy 65), P O'Connell (capt), P O'Mahony (K McLaughlin 57), J Heaslip, S O'Brien
New Zealand: I Dagg (R Crotty 53); C Jane (B Barrett 67), B Smith, M Nonu, J Savea; A Cruden, A Smith; W Crockett (B Franks 61), A Hore (D Coles 43), C Faumuina (O Franks 57), B Retallick, S Whitelock, S Lautua (L Messam 57), K Read, R McCaw (capt)
Referee: N Owens (Wales)