Ireland stun All Blacks again to make history with series triumph | rugby union

The historic hits just keep coming for Ireland. The first win in New Zealand last week was followed by another first in Wellington: a second straight win over the All Blacks to take the Test series against the most formidable rugby nations for the first time since matches between the two began in 1905.

“It’s a special group,” said Ireland manager Andy Farrell amid jubilant scenes. “It’s probably the most difficult thing in world rugby. We said it would be the start of our World Cup year but I don’t know, it’s probably a little bigger than that.”

It is a testament to his confident, grounded but clearly inspirational leadership of Ireland that his reflections on this historic achievement have been placed in the context of the next milestone. “It is clear how much faith [we have] and it starts with leading man Faz,” said Ireland captain Johnny Sexton. “It’s really thanks to him.”

Despite all of Farrell’s actions beforehand, those on the pitch needed to grasp the moment and in the third week of the rebound, Ireland landed early. Josh van der Flier’s flop-over from a lineout drive after three minutes set the tone for a first-half highlights reel that showed all the best about Ireland.

Organized and dynamic multi-stage attacking, coupled with power and cunning in tight situations, limited New Zealand to a Jordie Barrett penalty and created two more tries before the break. The first came from a delicious mispass that saw Hugo Keenan floored wide left before Bundee Aki, after two quick stages behind a scrum in the All Blacks ’22, allowed him to feed Robbie Henshaw, who galloped in unhindered. Additional conversions from Sexton allowed the captain to lead his side 22-3 off the field.

As disjointed and nervous as the hosts were in the first 40, this was quickly trampled on early in the second, particularly under Ardie Savea’s boot. The New Zealand No.8 took responsibility for getting his team back in the game, forcing through two Irish tacklers to open his side’s try account and then coming under the Irish breakdown to win a penalty.

Robbie Henshaw dives to score. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile/Getty Images

Speaking of penalties, a defining moment seemed to come in the 50th minute when Andrew Porter banged his heads during his tackle on Brodie Retallick. At first glance it looked similar to the incident that resulted in Angus Ta’avao seeing red last week, but Wayne Barnes felt Porter’s contact was less dominant and only issued a yellow.

Undeterred by any sense of injustice, the All Blacks scored within a minute, Akira Ioane in his first international try after a strong run, prevailed through weak tackles from Dan Sheehan and Van der Flier. Sexton extended the lead from the tee before Savea – the one-man cavalry charge – played a clever pass to Will Jordan to see the wing run 80 yards to land.

20 minutes before the end and three points behind, the next goal was decisive. Rob Herring, new to the field, calmly hit his lineout jumper before disengaging from the back of the Maul and driving through an army of defenders to stretch to the line.

Rob Herring wants to score.
Rob Herring wants to score. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

The 10-point cushion did little to ease the sense of anxiety as New Zealand dominated the closing minutes. With that, Tadhg Beirne decided Savea would not finish the individual praises, the Munster lockout made three crucial defensive interventions on the breakdown. Each killed an ominous all-black attack. An incredible game-winning effort. As the clock drifted into the final minute, Peter O’Mahony was already in tears – the magnitude of the performance was setting in. In the end he wasn’t the only one. “I’ll bet you we have four million at home for breakfast probably watching us have a few pints,” Sexton said. “We talk about her all the time, we want to make her proud and we certainly did.”

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“It’s never happened before,” O’Mahony added. “It’s something I never thought possible as a young lad, but now the young lads back home know it’s possible.” After 100 years of trying, this Irish team has made a game-changing change in the art of the possible.

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