Ireland explodes on Soldier Field

Sat, 05 Nov 2016 19:37
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MATCH REPORT: Ireland achieved their biggest victory in their history when they beat the All Blacks 40-29 at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday.

In a breathtaking upset, Ireland outscored the New Zealanders by five tries to four to seal their first win over the Kiwis in the 29th meeting between the two nations dating to 1905.

The Soldier Field crowd erupted in delight at the whistle, cheering the end of a second century-old sporting hoodoo in the space of a few days after the city's Chicago Cubs ended their 108-year World Series baseball curse on Wednesday.

The Irish were forced to hold off a ferocious New Zealand fightback in the second half, which saw the All Blacks recover from a 8-30 deficit to go within four points at 33-29. 

But with the majority of fans in a 62 300 sellout crowd roaring them on, Ireland scored a fifth and final try through blockbusting centre Robbie Henshaw, converted by replacement flyhalf Joey Carbery, to clinch a famous victory.

"It has been a long time coming and history [has been] made. We're absolutely ecstatic," Ireland skipper Rory Best told BT Sport.

"We knew they are a great side. You can see how good a side they are and how much it means to our boys to have won that.

"We just had to go out and attack them."

It was New Zealand's first defeat since their loss to Australia in August 2015. 

Only last month, the All Blacks had set a world record for consecutive victories with their 18th win in a row.

New Zealand's preparations for the Test had been thrown into disarray by the absence through injury of first choice locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock.

The further absence of second row Luke Romano following a family bereavement had forced them into starting a makeshift pairing of Jerome Kaino and Patrick Tuipulotu.

But New Zealand coach Steve Hansen refused to blame the injury crisis for the loss.

"The right side won," Hansen said. "The Irish side played very well and congratulations to them.

"We don't want to use [the injuries] as an excuse. We trained well enough, we prepared well enough we thought. We're not going to make any excuses about not having the right people."

Ireland took full advantage to dominate New Zealand at the line-out, launching attack after attack from the setpiece.

Johnny Sexton kicked Ireland ahead with a penalty after only four minutes when French referee Mathieu Raynal whistled the All Blacks for not rolling away at the breakdown.

But New Zealand hit back immediately with the opening try of the game, George Moala finishing off after Waisake Naholo's electrifying break.

Flyhalf Beauden Barrett scuffed his conversion attempt to leave New Zealand's lead at 5-3.

Ireland were then handed a crucial advantage after All Black prop Joe Moody was sin-binned for a clear tip tackle on Henshaw.

Ireland capitalised to score a try in the corner when Jordi Murphy barreled over from a driving maul. Sexton's conversion made it 10-5.

Ireland were soon back on the attack. Sexton's hanging ball to the edge of the 22 was superbly plucked from the air by fullback Rob Kearney and, after working through the phases, Christiaan Stander battered over to make it 15-5.

Sexton missed the conversion. Barrett closed the gap to seven points with a penalty after Ireland were offside but Sexton restored Ireland's 10-point advantage soon afterwards.

Ireland were forced to make a change in the 26th minute when Murphy was stretchered off with what looked like a knee injury, replaced by Josh van der Flier.

But the disruption was fleeting.

In the 34th minute, Ireland surged forwards once more. A powerful drive left New Zealand on the back foot and from a ruck 10 meters out, scrumhalf Conor Murray dummied Aaron Smith to scamper over for Ireland's third try. 

Sexton converted to make it 25-8 at half-time.

The second half began with New Zealand looking sharper and faster, but it was Ireland who scored next.

Another attacking line-out from Ireland took them close to the New Zealand line and quick ball found Sexton who fed Simon Zebo for 30-8.

Yet New Zealand roared back through tries from replacement TJ Perenara and Ben Smith to take the score to 30-22.

A Murray penalty put Ireland 33-22 ahead but a 64th minute try by All Black debutant lock Scott Barrett, took New Zealand back to 33-27.

Brother Beauden added the conversion and Ireland were within four.

Ireland's defenders resisted furious late pressure, though, and Henshaw crashed over with four minutes to go to complete a magnificent win.

Man of the match: It was Ireland's finest moment and the entire team played their hearts out. However, special mention must go to Conor Murray, Robbie Henshaw and Christian Stander for just being brilliant.

Moment of the match: When Robbie Henshaw went over for his team's fifth and final try - you just knew something great was about to happen. 

Villain of the match: Joe Moody for getting a yellow card for a tip tackle in the first half and another dangerous tackle in the second half.  

The scorers:

For Ireland:
Tries: Best, Stander, Murray, Zebo Henshaw
Cons: Sexton 3
Pens: Sexton 2, Murray

For New Zealand:
Tries: Moala, Perenara, Smith, S Barrett
Cons: Barrett 3
Pen: Barrett:

Yellow card: Joe Moody (New Zealand, 7 - dangerous play, tip tackle)

Teams:

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Christian Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Garry Ringrose.

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 George Moala, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Jerome Kaino, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com