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Joe Schmidt’s decade in Ireland has yielded unprecedented success ever since Johnny Sexton orchestrated Leinster’s miracle revival against Northampton in the 2011 European final. It was Sexton’s drop goal at Stade de France, to spark the 2018 Grand Slam, which secured Schmidt’s legacy, but when most happenings from these heady days are forgotten, games against the All Blacks will linger because they represent the evolution of Irish rugby in an incomparable period of time.
The New Zealand encounters define the Schmidt era.
Ireland 22 New Zealand 24
Nov 2013 – Dublin
There was no warning sign. A fortnight previously the Wallabies had thumped Ireland 32-15 but not a single soul at the Aviva will forget the noise, the Lansdowne roar resurrected on its burial ground, as Rob Kearney, with gritted teeth, pounded his way down the right wing, Kieran Read in hot pursuit. That made it 19-0 after 17 minutes. So began Richie McCaw’s superhuman refusal to be the first All Black captain that loses to Ireland. On 73 minutes, with the score 22-17, Sexton allowed his kicking routine to be disrupted by a child’s voice in the crowd, as the image of his son flickered in his mind’s eye.
“17 (Jack McGrath) straight off your feet,” said Nigel Owens with 79:33 on the clock. McCaw instantly attacked and two minutes later Ryan Crotty’s try levelled it. Cruden, eventually, converted for the win. As joy flipped into misery on this black night, nobody could have known it was the beginning of the best of times.
Joe Schmidt: “Not to get a result that was in our hands is pretty devastating.”
Steve Hansen: “Had they kicked the goal it was all over, but they gave us a sniff.”
Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, D Kearney; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Ross; D Toner, P O’Connell (capt), P O’Mahony, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.Replacements: S Cronin for R Best (15 mins), L Fitzgerald for B O’Driscoll (53 mins), K McLaughin for O’Mahony (56 mins), I Madigan for J Sexton (76 mins), D Fitzpatrick for Ross, M McCarthy for D Toner (both 65 mins), J McGrath for C Healy (69 mins).
New Zealand: I Dagg; C Jane, B Smith, M Nonu, J Savea; A Cruden, A Smith; W Crockett, A Hore, C Faumuina; B Retallick, S Whitelock; S Luatua, R McCaw (capt), K Read.Replacements: Coles for A Hore (42 mins), R Crotty for Dagg (52 mins), L Messam for Luatua (57 mins), O Franks for Faumuina (57 mins), B Franks for Crokcett (60 mins), B Barrett for Jane (66 mins).
Referee: N Owens (Wales).
Ireland 40 New Zealand 29
Nov 2016 – Soldier Field, Chicago
All about South Loop on the sunny morning of November 5th, 2016 the Chicago Cubs victory parade organically transformed into a St Patrick’s Day rout. Conor Murray’s magnificence was accentuated by a ferocious tackle on Julian Savea to set up the scrum that led to Robbie Henshaw’s killer try.
“It’s three years, isn’t it, which is scary,” said Murray this week of Anthony Foley’s passing. “And it’s a bit of a reminder of what happened in Chicago. Axel played a massive part in that day, obviously, with the way we approached the Haka . . . he has definitely been in my head this week.”
Ireland scored an astonishing five tries to New Zealand’s four. The fifth being the sweetest.
“We were in such a dominant mindset yet calm,” Jamie Heaslip remembered. “There was a scrum in our half, we went to the edge to draw the winger up and Zeebs knocked it down field as everyone burned up and trapped Julian Savea.”
Two perfect passes by Kiwi bred men – Joey Carbery and Jared Payne – found Simon Zebo. Malakai Fekitoa just beat Zebo in the ensuing foot race but Payne forced a hospital pass to Savea who looked up and sees the swarm of Heaslip, Andrew Trimble, Josh van der Flier and Henshaw.
Miraculously, it was Murray who drove ‘The Bus’ over the dead ball line.
“We knew what we were going to call straight away. We looked at each other and said ‘Princess’ at the same time.”
On New Zealand television Justin Marshall is convinced Ireland will ke
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