A Jacob Stockdale try guides Ireland to a first win against New Zealand on Irish soil.
In what was a ferocious battle between the two best sides in the world, Ireland laid down an early marker through their forwards that ultimately foreshadowed how the night would unfold.
Ireland started this highly anticipated match with pace and Johnny Sexton slotted three points to give Ireland an early lead but this was cancelled out by Beauden Barrett on 17 minutes. It was a bruising encounter in the early stages and both sides tried to batter down the door with the forwards. Devin Toner, van der Flier, Bundee Aki and James Ryan carried strongly for Ireland while Kieran Read and Liam Squire did the same for the All Blacks.
The pressure exerted from Ireland forced New Zealand to give away six penalties inside the first 25 minutes, with most of them being entirely avoidable. Rob Kearney had a try ruled out but Sexton added three points as their was an infringement in the build up to the chance. Penalty number nine saw Wayne Barnes warn Read about his side’s discipline while Sexton gave Ireland a three point lead at half time.
Ireland received a massive let off at the start of the second half. Jacob Stockdale attempted a chipped kick but Kieran Read couldn’t gather the charge down. Credit must go to the Ulsterman though as his confidence wasn’t dented and he scored a fantastic individual try after chipping the Kiwi defence minutes later.
Ireland used Rob Kearney’s prowess under the high ball to great effect in the second half. On two occasions he was able to give Ireland the momentum in crucial parts of the pitch. Unfortunately it did not result in any points for Ireland but certainly gave them the upper hand and posed a few Kiwi mental questions.
New Zealand controlled most of the territory and possession in the middle of the half but Ireland were determined not to let them in. Rory Best and Peter O’Mahony pulled off a number of wonderful turnovers which helped relieve pressure even if it was only momentarily. The visitors had opportunities but uncharacteristic bad decision making combined with Irish players in the right place at the right time ended the chances.
Barrett’s third penalty made it a seven-point game with 12 minutes to go but Ireland ramped the intensity in defence up several notches. Their line speed was phenomenal and forced the All Blacks into making mistakes which ultimately cost them the game.
This result represents just another chapter in what is a magnificent team that Joe Schmidt has assembled. Things are looking positive heading into a World Cup year as Ireland chase a maiden semi final appearance.