‘Ruthless cyborgs!’: New Zealand media dissects 111-year Irish win over All Blacks
After more than a century of coming up short, the Irish rugby team claimed a second victory in as many years against successive World Cup winners the New Zealand All Blacks, in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening, edging the visitors out by a score of 16-9
This time though, on the hallowed Dublin turf, felt more comprehensive than the win against an under-strength All Blacks side in Chicago 24 months ago.
Saturday’s test match between the world’s top two teams, the champions of the northern and southern hemispheres, had been marked on the rugby calendar for more than a year as the most pivotal international match of the season.
It was worth the wait. A brilliantly worked second-half score from Jacob Stockdale proved the difference between the two sides as the world champions struggled to create anything against a dogged Irish defence. It was the first time since 1995 that the All Blacks, the world’s top-ranked side for nine years straight, had been held tryless against a team from the north.
And it wasn’t for a lack of trying, either.
The atmosphere in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium was at fever pitch from the get-go. The All Black haka, the centuries old Maori war-dance with which they begin each game, was met by unified Irish resistance, as the Irish squad took a few steps forward in acceptance of the challenge as the ravenous crowd roared their appreciation.
The stage and the atmosphere were set for a frenetic 80 minutes as the world’s best sides went toe-to-toe and, at the end, it was the men in green who were still standing.
Several Irish players marked themselves as heroes. Peter O’Mahony, Ireland’s stoic flanker, was immense until his body finally gave way on the hour mark and the talismanic Jonny Sexton bossed the midfield and, crucially, outplayed his opposite number - two-time world Player of the Year Beauden Barrett.
“Brutal does not even begin to describe the contest but, for Ireland, the outcome was as beautiful as any in their rugby history. For the first time they have beaten the All Blacks on Irish soil and not a single Kiwi can say it was undeserved. If New Zealand are still officially the world's best team, it did not particularly feel that way at the final whistle,” Robert Kitson wrote in The Guardian of the win.
“On this performance at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, a well-deserved 16-9 victory over the All Blacks, it would be churlish to dispute the argument that the superpower of northern hemisphere rugby now deserves to be considered the best team on the planet,” said Richard Knowler of Stuff.co.nz.
“Ireland were like ruthless cyborgs as they clinically followed the formula that had proved such a success for them in the Six Nations.”
“Ireland can now claim to be the best team in the world after producing a stunning performance that was brave, creative and relentless,” Gregor Paul of the NZ Herald chimed in.
“They deserved the win and with it, they deserve to be seen as world rugby’s best team even if the rankings don’t agree.”
“As for the All Blacks, they were almost as good and that is something that will hurt. The word almost. It’s not normally there but the truth of things at the moment is that Ireland versus New Zealand is the great rivalry of the modern age.
“And maybe, just maybe, Ireland having won two of the last three can say they are edging it.”
Steve Hansen, the all-conquering All Blacks coach, admitted in the aftermath that his side were second-best throughout.
“I'd like to congratulate Ireland," he said in the post-match press conference. "They played outstandingly well and they took their opportunity and we didn't take ours.”
Asked how this might impact next year’s World Cup in Japan, Hansen lamented: “What it does do is make them as of now the number one team in the world and I guess that does make them favourites [for the World Cup].”
That is a sentence that Irish rugby has been waiting more than a century to hear.
Steve Hansen:— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) November 17, 2018
"Firstly, I'd like to congratulate Ireland, I thought they played outstandingly well and deserved the victory. They took their chances and we didn't take ours."