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Ireland 40 New Zealand 29: A perfect day for a humble group of warriors

By Tony Ward

Published 07/11/2016

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: (L-R) Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip of Ireland celebrates following his team's 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: (L-R) Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip of Ireland celebrates following his team's 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: (L-R) Jonny Sexton and Simon Zebo of Ireland celebrate following their team's 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Rory Best of Ireland celebrates following his team's 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Dejected New Zealand players look on following their team's 40-29 defeat during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Dejected New Zealand players look on following their team's 40-29 defeat during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Dejected New Zealand players look on following their team's 40-29 defeat during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Joe Schmidt the head coach of Ireland congratulates his players following their 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Jack McGrath of Ireland celebrates following his team's 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Simon Zebo (L) of Ireland celebrates with teammate Jonny Sexton after scoring his team's fourth try during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Simon Zebo (L) of Ireland celebrates with teammate Jonny Sexton after scoring his team's fourth try during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Ireland's Devin Toner, back, and Jack McGrath, right, defend against New Zealand's Ben Smith, center, during the second half of a rugby match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Kieran Reid of New Zealand looks on during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Ireland's Jamie Heaslip, right, defends against New Zealand's Ben Smith, left, during the second half of a rugby match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Ireland's Robbie Henshaw, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring against New Zealand during the second half of a rugby match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Ireland's CJ Stander, center, is tackled by New Zealand's Malakai Fekitoa, left, during the second half of a rugby match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Ireland's CJ Stander celebrates after a rugby match against New Zealand, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Ireland's Robbie Henshaw, right, scores past New Zealand's Sam Cane, left, during the second half of a rugby match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Ireland's Joey Carbery, right, celebrates with Josh van der Flier, left, after a rugby match against New Zealand, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Ireland's supporters cheer on their team during the second half of a rugby match against New Zealand, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Debut cap Scott Barrett of New Zealand touches down to score his team's third try during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of New Zealand hands off CJ Stander of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of New Zealand hands off CJ Stander of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of New Zealand wins lineout ball under pressure from CJ Stander of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of New Zealand wins lineout ball under pressure from CJ Stander of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: CJ Stander of Ireland wins lineout ball during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Beauden Barrett of New Zealand spills a high ball during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Robbie Henshaw of Ireland is snagged by Dane Coles of New Zealand during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Robbie Henshaw of Ireland hands off Dane Coles of New Zealand during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Ireland players celebrate their 40-29 victory as the final whistle blows during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Ireland fans celebrate their team's 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Ireland fans celebrate their team's 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Ireland fans celebrate their team's 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Ireland fans celebrate their team's 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Ireland fans celebrate their team's 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Ireland fans celebrate their team's 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Donnacha Ryan (L) of Ireland celebrates following his team's 40-29 victory during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: The injured George Moala of New Zealand receives treatment during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: The injured George Moala of New Zealand receives treatment during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: The injured George Moala of New Zealand receives treatment during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: The injured George Moala of New Zealand receives treatment during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Liam Squire of the New Zealand All Blacks is tackled during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: A New Zealand fan cheers on her team fan during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: An Ireland fan is apprehended by security as he attempts to celebrate with Jamie Heaslip of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
The All Blacks perform the haka during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: (EDITOR'S NOTE: Image was created as an Equirectangular Panorama. Import image into a panoramic player to create an interactive 360 degree view.) The teams line up for the anthems during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Beauden Barrett of New Zealand spills a high ball during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Kieran Reid of New Zealand looks on during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of New Zealand claims a ball during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of New Zealand claims a ball during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Referee Mathieu Raynal of France speaks with Kieran Reid of New Zealand during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Joe Moody of New Zealand is hauled down by CJ Stander of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Aaron Cruden of New Zealand is tackled by Conor Murray of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Joe Moody of New Zealand is hauled down by CJ Stander of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Referee Mathieu Raynal of France officiates during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of the New Zealand All Blacks takes the ball in the lineout during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Owen Franks of the New Zealand All Blacks is tackled by CJ Stander of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Owen Franks of the New Zealand All Blacks is tackled by CJ Stander of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Beauden Barrett of the New Zealand All Blacks spills the high ball during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Beauden Barrett of the New Zealand All Blacks spills the high ball during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of the New Zealand All Blacks takes a catch during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: George Moala of the New Zealand All Blacks is injured during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Robbie Henshaw of Ireland is smothered by players after scoring a try during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of the New Zealand All Blacks heads for a try during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of the New Zealand All Blacks heads for a try during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of the New Zealand All Blacks heads for a try during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Ryan Crotty of the New Zealand All Blacks leaves the field injured during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of the New Zealand All Blacks scores a try during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Simon Zebo of Ireland takes a catch during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Scott Barrett of the New Zealand All Blacks scores a try during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

One of the most eye-catching posters and billboards we've seen since landing in this magnificent city on the day the Chicago Cubs took baseball's World Series title for the first time in 108 years reads simply 'Goodbye Someday'. It needs little elaboration.

For Irish rugby on Saturday at the iconic Soldier Field, our 'Goodbye Someday' moment also arrived and, as was cleverly suggested at the post-match bash, our 111 years trying to beat New Zealand at rugby "blew the Cubs out of the water". We jest, of course, but what a day, what a game and what a winning performance for anyone remotely interested in the welfare of Irish sport on the international stage.

While it was inevitable that one day we would beat the All Blacks at the highest level, few if any would have put a wrapper on this being that time. Yes, there was a window of opportunity through the absence of three first-choice locks and no team, not even the greatest in the history of the game, can paper over that gaping hole without feeling the pinch.

Joe Schmidt identified the obvious and went for it with heavy artillery and all guns blazing by way of a selection designed with clear intent. The lineout was the target but it's one thing saying it and quite another doing it.

For 40 minutes, though, we pulverised the primary source of New Zealand possession and on the back of that established an incredible 17-point lead at the break.

But there were other factors too, not least Joe Moody's rank indiscipline just ten minutes in for a crazy tip tackle on Robbie Henshaw. Yellow was just about the right decision but on another day with another official he might just as easily seen red. In retrospect, I'm glad he didn't because on this day it was the team in green that won fairly and squarely and nothing should detract from that.

Mention of Henshaw and here again was a hero amongst so many heroes on a day when each and every individual had to be at the top of his game.

He may play in a different position to Jamie Heaslip but I see so many parallels with the Ireland No8 in how the Leinster centre goes about his business in every game he plays. He is selfless to a fault and while it is in the eye of the beholder as to whether he or Conor Murray was the outstanding individual on the day, Henshaw's willingness to lay his body on the line inspires every other player around him, particularly in a must-deliver match such as this. The Westmeath man was quite simply awesome.

So too the half-backs with Murray and Jonathan Sexton giving another display of pragmatic game management in the most pressurised of arenas.

Just one game into the northern hemisphere season and immediately the Irish pair are in pole position to face the same opposition in the Lions Test series next summer.

Robbie Henshaw with Jordi Murphy
Robbie Henshaw with Jordi Murphy

For sure they were that good with Aaron Smith called ashore by Steve Hansen and Beauden Barrett almost innocuous for the first time when wearing All Black colours this season.

But rugby is in essence a simple game sometimes made extremely complex. Get the primary game right in the scrum and out of touch and it allows half-backs to flourish and in Murray and Sexton we happen to have two of the best with ice in the veins in the red heat of battle. I don't think I've ever seen Murray get flustered or upset.

He is the personification of coolness which must rile every opposition coach never mind the troops they send out to get at him. In the Soldier Field he ruled like the marshal he is. I doubt he has produced a more complete performance in green and that's saying something.

Indeed if you were picking a combined team from Saturday's compelling evidence, I'm not too sure all that many in black would make it. Yes, Ireland were that good but, of course, we can expect a serious backlash at the Aviva on Saturday week next.

And what of Simon Zebo and the much-maligned Rob Kearney?

The full-back and wing produced minor miracles in the air and if Kearney will be disappointed with his defence for two of the tries, the moral courage he brought to Saturday's stage in claiming ball to which he had no right to claim was inspirational. Few backs can compete as effectively against forwards numbered four to eight on restarts. While Zebo, true to form, also oozed confidence.

I'm not going to even attempt at singling out forwards, so good was the pack from Jack McGrath out. Sometimes we talk about throwing down a blanket and every forward being underneath. The game has changed dramatically in terms of inter-changeability but this was one of those 'blanket days' when this Irish pack hunted as one.

They did feel the heat in the second half when New Zealand upped the forward intensity dramatically. Indeed when Zebo touched down just seven minutes into the second half, I thought we were home and hosed. You'd think I'd know better! And when they closed to four (33-29) just past the hour I thought our goose was again cooked.

But here was the difference, and it was emphasised heavily by the coach in the celebratory aftermath - the mental resilience fuelled by new energy off the bench brought us to a place we had never been before against the Blacks.

The Ryan Crotty heartbreak lesson had been learned and it was Ireland through the incredible Henshaw (how fitting) and Joey Carbery posting the final history-making points.

And of young Carbery, what do you say? That this kid excites is obvious. Imagine your first cap being in the acquisition of the most desired 'friendly' (a misnomer if ever there was one) scalp there is and you strut the pressurised stage with such confidence and still only 21.

The world is his oyster and with the maestro Sexton at the top of his game to guide him.

I'm not too sure it gets much better than this. Roll on the November series but what a city, what a venue, what an occasion, what a match, what a win. So proud to be Irish. No World Cup in the locker just yet but what a statement of intent for the future and with the most technically brilliant and humble of men safely secured to drive us.

Belfast Telegraph

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