Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Ireland v All Blacks: Seven mad minutes that changed rugby history

Sexton misses penalty

The is when it all starts to go wrong for Ireland.

Jonathan Sexton has a chance to extend Ireland's lead to eight points with a penalty but his effort, which he took plenty of time over, drifts wide.

That means the score remains at 22-17 so New Zealand are still right in the mix – had Sexton's kick been successful they would have needed at least two scores which, with time running out, would have been a tall order even for this great side.

The closing stages are now obviously going to be extremely tough for the Irish, with the All Blacks determined to become the first team in the professional era to have a 100 per cent record over the course of a whole campaign.

All of a sudden, a five point lead looks extremely slender in the face of what is almost certainly going to be relentless New Zealand pressure.

Aftermath of bad miss by Sexton

Sexton's penalty miss is potentially the big turning point in the match and it is up to Ireland to ensure this doesn't prove to be the case.

The moments immediately after the kick are obviously going to be key, Ireland having suffered a massive body blow and New Zealand receiving a huge psychological boost.

The All Blacks can sense blood and as the visitors go on the offensive again, it is clear the Ireland team are going to have to play the best rugby of their lives mixed in with a large dose of bravery and courage.

Irish look like being up to task

A huge tackle from Mike McCarthy forces the rampant All Blacks in to touch and sets the tone for Ireland's rearguard action.

The Irish will need plenty of the same of they are going to end 128 years of hurt – can they possibly manage a first ever victory against the All Blacks in 28 attempts?

The home crowd can only look on nervously as the men in green fight it out for a victory that would go down as one of the greatest in Ireland's sporting history.

Ireland go on the offensive

The Irish attempt to go on the attack in search of the score that will secure victory.

New Zealand push them back, though, and Ireland kick deep.

Nails are being bitten all round the Aviva Stadium and in homes the length and breadth of Ireland. This is one heck of a match but it isn't easy on the nerves.

The clock is ticking but you get the feeling this superb encounter could have a few more twists and turns yet.

All Blacks bounce right back

New Zealand counter immediately but, thankfully for Ireland, Ma'a Nonu knocks on.

Could this be the break that Ireland need to secure their greatest ever victory?

This is proving to be the biggest test of the All Blacks' bid to rack up 14 wins from 14 matches.

And who would have thought Ireland would have put up such powerful resistance given last weekend's weak surrender to Australia, a far less accomplished side than the world champions?

With just two minutes left on the clock, what had seemed to be the impossible dream is now within touching distance. And what a feather that would be in the cap of Joe Schmidt in just his third game in charge of Ireland.

But this thriller isn't over just yet.

The game is almost up for visitors

Ireland are battling hard, that precious 22-17 lead still intact.

For the home crowd time seems to be passing so slowly.

Surely victory cannot be cruelly snatched away at this late stage?

But this brilliant New Zealand team are simply refusing to accept defeat.

Heartbreak for brave Irish at end

The All Blacks are handed a last-gasp opportunity when replacement prop Jack McGrath is penalised for going off his feet at a ruck.

Here come New Zealand one last time. And with the Irish line in sight, Dane Coles puts his fellow replacement Ryan Crotty in the clear to touch down for a score that brings the All Blacks level in time added on.

Then even more drama. Referee Nigel Owens asks the TMO to check the last two passes in case either was forward. But no reprieve for the heartbroken Irish.

So with the score at 22-22, Aaron Cruden has a conversion attempt from out wide to snatch a two-point victory for New Zealand.

And in keeping with this wonderful match, there is an added twist to the tale.

With the All Blacks' bid for a perfect season on the line, Cruden misses but the referee orders it to be re-taken because of Ireland players rushing out too early in an attempt to charge down the kick. And this time Cruden (pictured) makes no mistake, firing the ball between the posts for a dramatic 24-22 victory.

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