Amid the crazy scenes in Dunedin on Saturday night, Ireland celebrated an historic 23-12 victory over the All Blacks.
This was Ireland’s first win in New Zealand in 117 years of trying, and they will deserve all the praise they are sure to receive in the days ahead after punishing the ill-disciplined All Blacks at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
“We’ve got a fantastic coaching team, they had us well up for the game,” Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton said.
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“We felt that we didn’t give the best of ourselves last week. The All Blacks obviously punished us for our mistakes. They put us in a really good place this week, and all we had to do was go and deliver what they put together for us and we did that…
“We’re delighted with the win, but we have a chance to win a series here and they don’t come along too often.”
Now, a piece of advice. Whatever you do in the next 24 hours, be sure to get hold of the footage of this Test match.
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You won’t be disappointed. This wasn’t flawless rugby, far from it, but it overflowed with controversy, confusion, entertainment and sheer blood-and-guts action.
Now the All Blacks and Ireland, who were superbly captained by the cool-headed Sexton, head to Wellington for the series decider.
Referee Jaco Peyper was forced to take center stage of this wild affair as he issued a red card to All Blacks replacement prop Angus Ta’avao for a dangerous tackle on Ireland center Garry Ringrose, along with two yellows to Leicester Fainga’anuku and Ofa Tuungafasi .
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Fainga’anuku paid the price for clashing with opposite Mack Hansen in the air, while Tuungafasi was pinged for an early tackle on Ringrose.
Oh, and for good measure, Ireland lock James Ryan was also given a yellow for a professional foul. All four cards were issued in the first 40 minutes.
There were plenty of head scratching moments, too, as the All Blacks had to bring on replacement props for the scrums.
A technicality in the rules resulted in No.8 Ardie Savea being told he could no longer take part in the game – having earlier traded places with a prop – and he wore a bewildered look as Peyper told him his shift was over.
Forced to play with reduced numbers – a bloodied Ta’avao was sent off in the 31st minute – the All Blacks slowly got the wobbles, despite only trailing by three points at halftime.
The All Blacks defensive work in the final minutes of the first stanza was remarkable, although Peyper’s frustration was obvious as he told captain Sam Cane he was sick of them giving away penalties.
“You need to have a serious chat. I’m not going to back off,” Peyper said.
Ireland got real value out of their physicality at the breakdowns, and their scrums.
And loosehead prop Andrew Porter will forever remember the night he scored two tries against the All Blacks.
Porter scored in each half but it was his second, in the 48th minute, that had alarm bells of all shapes and sizes going off in the All Blacks camp.
Sexton’s conversion, which was followed by a penalty, put this beyond doubt.
The bosses were still blowing cool air on their deep fried snacks when Porter cracked the All Blacks defense to score the first try in the fourth minute.
It set the tone for a long night for the hosts.
It was to be the first chapter of one of the most absorbing, frantic, confusing and unpredictable halves of international rugby played in the southern city.
Somehow, despite Ireland having around 70 per cent of possession and buoyed by the sight of three All Blacks being told to take a hike by Peyper, the hosts managed to hang on.
At times it was like a movie, where you watch a poor soul hang on to the cliff edge by his fingertips, as the All Blacks stayed in the game.
Then, as we see in all good feature films, the All Blacks somehow managed to get into the opposition quarter and, with Ireland themselves reduced to 14 because Ryan had been sinbinned, Beauden Barrett scored a fortuitous try when he hacked a loose ball between the posts.
But the second half belong to Ireland. It was to be their night.
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