Sport Rugby

Sunday 18 March 2018

Kevin Doyle: 'We lost a rugby match and it felt like a death'

Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

AT that end it didn't matter. We could claim no victory in stopping the All Blacks' perfect season with a draw.

This was a day that deserved to be written in the history annals - even if it is future generations of Kiwis who will learn about it.

The only play the Irish could write about this one would be a Shakespearean tragedy full of heroes who were cruelly shot down as the blackness of night set in.

With 90 seconds left on the clock the volume on the Aviva Stadium was turned up to 'structural damage'. Our attack had been relentless and the defence spent 79 minutes wrapping up Kiwis like early Christmas presents.

A pitch invasion seemed likely. Dublin was on the verge of becoming a boomtown where dreams really do come through.

O'Driscoll, O'Connell and O'Mahony would be lined up for appearances on the Late Late Toy Show and Joe Schmidt would be the new Jack Charlton.

Almost 50,000 people were already thinking about how for years they would be able to brag that "I was there".

Leinster supporters would tell how few Munster men were in the team on the day that Ireland toppled New Zealand.

But alas it is just another hard luck story. A yarn so crushing that the crowd couldn't string the sentences together to tell it.

Instead the pubs around Ballsbridge, Sandymount and Ringsend were filled with single words and knowing nods: sensational, unbelievable, epic, brave, encouraging, pulsating, devastating, gutted, heartbroken, agonising, bittersweet  and unbelievable again.

Then came the 'ifs' and 'buts'. What if Johnny Sexton had scored that penalty to put us eight point up with six minutes left?

What if referee Nigel Owens had seen those offsides that everyone else in the stadium did?

We played like men cleansing not just the demons of last week against Australia but of a century of hard knocks against the Kiwis - but you when you turn over the ball with 20 seconds on the clock what do you expect?

Not since the night of Thierry Henry in Stade de France, four years and one week ago, has a 'forward pass' been talked about so much.

There are great similarities between the two occasions. Irish pride rose to the top. We could smell victory in our nostrils, taste it on our tongues and believe it in our brains.

In years to come the record sheet will show that Ireland ran the opposition close but ultimately anyone who didn't have the privilege of being there will see it as simply another defeat.

For those of us who witnessed it for hand there are raw hands from clapping, hoarse throats from shouting and spinning heads from the result.

The quaking roar that cheered the team off at half time wasn't repeated at the end but only because of the sheer shock and grief that sweep over the stadium.

The result was so finite that it felt like a death. There was no coming back and all the arguments over box kicks, mind games and Hakas were pointless.

It was a day to be proud yet moral victories mean little when you see New Zealand (of all teams) pack an unlikely win into their kit bags.

As Shakespeare once wrote: Good luck is often with the man who doesn't include it in his plans.

Online Editors

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