Ireland 40 – 29 New Zealand
Ireland’s class of 2016 wrote their names into the history books as Joe Schmidt’s side dispatched New Zealand 40-29 in Chicago – for their first win over the All Blacks in 111 years’ trying. Ireland lit up Soldier Field with their maiden win over the All Blacks at the 29th attempt.
New Zealand’s record-breaking winning run was halted at 18 Tests in the windy city, with Robbie Henshaw powering home for Ireland’s fifth and decisive try.
Ireland faced the Haka with respect, but also remembered late Munster head coach Anthony Foley. Joe Schmidt’s side lined up in a figure of eight to face New Zealand’s tribal challenge, in homage to the 63-cap number eight, who died last month aged just 42.
Ireland drew first blood thanks to Johnny Sexton’s first-minute penalty, only for New Zealand to jump straight onto the attack. George Moala was eventually awarded a hugely controversial try on video review, with officials ignoring Kieran Read’s high tackle on CJ Stander. Waisake Naholo blasted through the defence line, rounding Rob Kearney, only for Stander to dislodge his pass. As Stander flailed at the loose ball Read hit him around the neck, with Moala cleaning up and dotting down. French referee Mathieu Raynal referred the decision to Television Match Official (TMO) Rowan Kitt, but despite Read’s clear high tackle, the try was still awarded.
New Zealand led 5-3 owing to Beauden Barrett’s missed conversion, but were quickly reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes. While Read should have been yellow-carded, prop Joe Moody eventually was sent to the sin-bin for dangerously upending Robbie Henshaw at a ruck. Moody could perhaps count himself lucky for not receiving a red card for his crude challenge on the Ireland centre.
Ireland punted the penalty to the corner, and drove flanker Jordi Murphy over in the corner. Sexton’s touchline conversion wrestled Ireland a 10-5 lead in the 11th minute. Ireland doubled their try count, taking full advantage of another high tackle. Sexton’s peerless line punt to the corner set up another five-metre lineout. Rob Kearney cut the line tidily and Stander powered home for his side’s second score. Barrett’s penalty left Ireland leading 15-8 after 20 minutes.
Rob Kearney soared above Ben Smith to the restart after Barrett’s penalty, and from that platform Ireland bagged further points. Sexton slotted his second penalty, to leave Ireland leading 18-8.
Ireland then lost try-scorer Murphy to a suspected knee injury, the Leinster man was carted off on a stretcher after twisting his boot in the turf. Josh Van der Flier was called into action prematurely, while New Zealand lost Ryan Crotty, replaced by Malakai Fekitoa.
Ireland had entirely bossed possession and territory in a hugely-impressive opening half-hour, and Conor Murray showed great skill and awareness to race home for the third try. The Ireland nine had stolen a bouncing ball before he sold Aaron Smith a cute dummy around the fringes to romp over the whitewash. Sexton’s conversion put Ireland 25-8 to the good.
Ireland held that lead until the break but will have been hugely mindful of surrendering a 22-7 half-time advantage when New Zealand pulled off the stunning 24-22 comeback at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium in November 2013.
Moody was lucky to escape with just a penalty for a high shot on Kearney, especially given his first-half yellow card. Ireland punished the error once more though, with Simon Zebo flying into the left corner after another fine driven lineout. Sexton’s delayed flat pass gifted Munster wing Zebo a walk-in, further stunning the All Blacks. The Leinster man missed the touchline conversion, but Ireland still led 30-8.
New Zealand had already replaced stand-in lock Jerome Kaino for rookie Scott Barrett and Aaron Smith for TJ Perenara. And it was Perenara who raced in for New Zealand’s second score, a try owing everything to hooker Dane Coles’ superlative offload. Barrett’s conversion cut Ireland’s lead to 30-15. No sooner had New Zealand shifted Ben Smith to the right wing though, than he dotted down acrobatically in the corner. Barrett slotted the touchline conversion, with Ireland’s lead down to 30-22.
Owen Franks’ obstruction gifted Ireland a kickable penalty from the restart though – but with Sexton receiving treatment for cramp up stepped scrum-half Conor Murray to the tee. The Munster star slotted the three points with ease, edging Ireland’s lead to 33-22. Sexton was then forced off leaving 20-year-old rookie Carbery to make one of the highest-pressure debuts.
Scott Barrett marked his debut with New Zealand’s fourth try, wrong-footing Rob Kearney, with his brother Beauden converting to cut Ireland’s deficit to just four points.
Ireland still led 33-29 with 15 minutes to play, but the omens amid the All Blacks’ recovery only continued to grow. Try-scorer Moala slumped off with 10 minutes to play with a serious-looking shoulder problem, leaving New Zealand forced into a total re-jig. Hooker Codie Taylor, as the last replacement available, slotted in at blindside, with flanker Ardie Savea moving out to the wing. Zebo cut loose and then punted deep, Ireland forcing Julian Savea to touch down for a five-metre scrum.
From the scrum Robbie Henshaw powered home for Ireland’s fifth try, converted by Carbery. That left Ireland leading 40-29 with three minutes to play. Carbery missed a late penalty shot, but Ireland still hung on for a historic victory.