Belfast Telegraph

Ireland rugby fans go from joy to gloom as first victory over All Blacks thwarted

By Adrian Rutherford

It went right to the final kick on the most dramatic of afternoons – but it ended in heartbreak for Irish rugby fans as their dreams of a first ever win over the mighty All Blacks were cruelly dashed.

After more than a century of trying to beat New Zealand, Ireland were within a mere 20 seconds of toppling the world champions in Dublin yesterday.

But a last-gasp try, converted with the final kick of the game, cruelly denied them a historic victory.

They could play this fixture for another 100 years and Ireland will surely not come any closer than this.

"You've got to be prepared to defend until the final seconds and we didn't," said Ireland's New Zealand-born coach Joe Schmidt.

"We have to live with that now. A draw would also have been a loss to us.

"We had invested in winning that game.

"I just felt we didn't get the reward in the end."

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell said: "We'll look back at it and we'll look at missed chances.

"You need to make the most of those opportunities."

The fans who packed the Aviva Stadium in Dublin were equally gutted by the outcome.

"How on earth did the All Blacks come back from that?" asked one fan on Twitter.

Another said: "Words fail me. So unbelievably gutted for Ireland. Can't imagine how they feel after that."

Philip Stoops, from Belfast, who was at the game, said he was devastated.

"The match had an incredible atmosphere throughout and Ireland performed incredibly in the first half," he said.

"With 90 seconds to go in the opposition half I expected Ireland to close it out.

"For it to be thrown away at that stage was devastating as history was about to be made."

Gary Morris, from Lisburn, who was also in the stands, added: "I don't think I've ever seen a more dramatic finish to any sports match.

"I don't know how we didn't win it."

What made it all the more heartbreaking for Irish fans was that their side began the afternoon as rank outsiders.

New Zealand had won 26 of their 27 previous encounters, drawing the other back in 1973.

The Kiwis – the reigning world champions – were also aiming to become the first side to win every Test match in a calendar year in the professional era.

But roared on by a capacity crowd, Ireland ripped into the All Blacks from the first whistle.

Conor Murray and then Rory Best crashed over, with Jonny Sexton converting both tries to open a 14-0 lead.

Incredibly that lead was further stretched when Rob Kearney dashed from his 22 metre line to score.

For most sides 19-0 would have been too big a hurdle to overcome.

The problem for Ireland was they were facing the one side in world rugby who probably could.

Julian Savea ran onto the ball to touch down in the 26th minute, with Aaron Cruden converting to make it 19-7.

The second half brought a stirring fight back from the All Blacks.

A Cruden penalty reduced the deficit by three, then a Ben Franks try – again converted – made it 22-17.

As the minutes slowly ticked down, fans were shifting closer to the edge of their seats.

Fingernails were bitten, prayers muttered.

And so to the final seconds.

With the game in injury time, and supporters daring to contemplate a historic first win against the All-Blacks, Ryan Crotty went over in the corner.

Adding to the now unbearable tension, the try was referred upstairs.

There was a surge of hope as the final passes were examined and analysed for a possible infringement.

There wasn't any, and the verdict came back positive.

So 22-22, and the conversion still to come.

A chance for New Zealand to snatch victory.

Silence fell around the Aviva as Cruden lined up his kick.

It flashed inches wide.

But there would be one final twist to the most dramatic of games as the referee ordered a retake – and this time Cruden found the posts.

The final whistle blew.

Ireland had lost.

You don't get second chances against New Zealand.

Titanic clash sets Twitter alight with praise

New Zealand's last-gasp win which left Irish fans devastated was hailed as one of the greatest ever sporting comebacks.

Fans and celebrities took to Twitter to discuss the game within minutes of the final whistle.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness wrote: "A mighty game of rugby – we didn't win but the Irish team deserve our admiration & thanks for a magnificent effort. Respect to the All Blacks."

Chat show host Piers Morgan added: "Heart-break for Ireland. But credit to the All Blacks, one of the greatest sporting comebacks ever."

Former England rugby player Will Greenwood said: "I am absolutely staggered. Hands shaking. Sport is an incredible thing. Dreams and nightmares realised in seconds." Sports presenter Clare Balding said: "That awful, empty feeling when you know you had it won, then had the draw and then have nothing."

Ireland's heroics also earned plaudits from other sports stars.

Arsenal footballer Aaron Ramsey wrote: "Amazing drama with the retaken conversion. Gutted for Ireland but that's why NZ are so good."

QPR footballer Joey Barton said: "Hats off to Ireland, they were brilliant today." Turning to New Zealand, he added: "That's how you make history. Not with prettiness but with hard work, togetherness and determination."

Ex-boxing champ Barry McGuigan wrote: "What a magnificent performance by Ireland against the All Blacks."

Five other memorable misses in Irish sport

New Zealand v Ireland, rugby international, 2012

A last-gasp Dan Carter drop goal denied Ireland a famous win in New Zealand.

The Irish led at half-time in Christchurch through a Conor Murray try and penalties from Jonny Sexton.

A New Zealand try after the break nudged the All Blacks in front but a Sexton penalty with 11 minutes left tied the scores at 19-19.

With New Zealand down to 14 men it looked as if Ireland would go on and make history. But Carter's drop goal broke Irish hearts yet again.

Republic of Ireland v Spain, World Cup last 16, 2002

The Republic crashed out of the 2002 World Cup on penalties after staging a superb comeback against Spain.

A last-minute Robbie Keane penalty took the last 16 tie in South Korea into extra time. But Matt Holland, David Connolly and Kevin Kilbane missed in the shoot-out as Spain squeezed into the last eight.

Eddie Irvine, 1999 Formula One World Championship

The Northern Ireland driver went into the final race of the season in Japan with the 1999 F1 World Drivers' Championship in his grasp.

Four race wins left him four points clear of the chasing pack.

In the title showdown at Suzuka, a finish in front of Mika Hakkinen would guarantee Irvine the title. In the race, Irvine struggled for pace and finished third behind Hakkinen and runner-up Schumacher, handing the championship to Hakkinen.

Ireland v South Africa, 2007 Cricket World Cup

Ireland came within a whisker of pulling off a massive shock against South Africa – at the time the top side in one-day cricket.

At one stage South Africa were reduced to 91 for 8, but they recovered to 192 all out.

The 193 target was attainable, but Ireland lost their nerve in the final stages, eventually losing by a slender 35 runs.

Ireland v England, 2013 Euro Hockey Championships

Ireland missed out on a semi-final place on goal difference after drawing 2-2 with England. Late Ireland pressure almost led to a winner but the English held on for the draw to guarantee a second-placed finish in their pool.

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