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Triple crown over southern hemisphere sides rates as greatest Irish achievement

By Tony Ward

Published 28/11/2016

Ireland's captain Rory Best celebrates victory over Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. PA
Ireland's captain Rory Best celebrates victory over Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. PA
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Paddy Jackson of Ireland and CJ Stander of Ireland celebrate as Referee, Jerome Garces awards Ireland a penalty to finish the game during the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Ireland's captain Rory Best celebrates with his wife Jodie and son Ben after the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's players celebrate their win on the pitch after the rugby union test match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva stadium in Dublin on November 26, 2016. Ireland won the game 27-24. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland's Jack McGrath celebrates with teammates after the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's captain Rory Best with his family after the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's Tadhg Furlong after the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's Simon Zebo and Conor Murray celebrate after the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's Simon Zebo and Keith Earls celebrate after the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's captain Rory Best celebrates with teammates after the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's Keith Earls (left) and Conor Murray celebrate after the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's captain Rory Best celebrates with teammates after the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's players celebrate their win on the pitch after the rugby union test match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva stadium in Dublin on November 26, 2016. Ireland won the game 27-24. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland's Devin Toner celebrates with teammates after the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's captain Rory Best celebrates with his wife Jodie, sons Ritchie and Ben after the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's captain Rory Best applauds the fans after the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's captain Rory Best (centre) talks to his team-mates during a time out in the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Tevita Kuridrani of Australia celebrates scoreing his side's second try during the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Bernard Foley of Australia kicks a conversion to take the lead during the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Ireland's Keith Earls scores a try during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Australia's Sefanaia Naivalu gets past Ireland's Conor Murray on his way to scoring a try during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's CJ Stander and Australia's Lopeti Timani (right) during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Fans celebrate after Ireland's Keith Earls scores a try during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's Sean Cronin is tackled by Australia's Reece Hodge during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's Tadhg Furlong is held back by Australia's Israel Folau during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Dane Haylett-Petty of Australia is tackled by Keith Earls of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Referee, Jerome Garces gestures to Rory Best of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Ireland's Rory Best and Australia's Bernard Foley (right) compete for the ball during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Dane Haylett-Petty of Australia skips past Jamie Heaslip of Ireland to score his side's first try during the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Simon Zebo of Ireland is tackled by Henry Speight of Australia during the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Simon Zebo of Ireland is tackled by Henry Speight of Australia during the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Dane Haylett-Petty of Australia dives over to score his side's first try during the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Dane Haylett-Petty of Australia dives over to score his side's first try during the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Australia's flanker Dean Mumm (R) cannot prevent Ireland's centre Garry Ringrose diving over the line to score Ireland's second try during the rugby union test match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva stadium in Dublin on November 26, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Australia's Michael Hooper is tackled by Ireland's Jared Payne during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
General view of the action between Ireland and Australia during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Ireland's Simon Zebo is tackled by Australia's Bernard Foley during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
Rory Best of Ireland greets former Ireland player Ronan O'Gara prior to the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: A general view of the Australia dressing room prior to the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Bernard Foley of Australia arrives prior to the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
General view of the warm up inside the Aviva Stadium before the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Stephen Moore of Australia shakes hands with Rory Best of Ireland prior to the international match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Ireland players (from left) Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Sean Cronin, Rory Best and Conor Murray arrive for the captain's run at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PA
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Stephen Moore of Australia looks on during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Stephen Moore of Australia speaks to the media following the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Reece Hodge of Australia practices his kicking during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Dane Haylett-Petty of Australia receives a pass during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Henry Speight of Australia practices his kicking during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: David Pocock of Australia claims a high ball during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Bernard Foley of Australia in action during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Bernard Foley of Australia practices his drop kick during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Rory Arnold arrives prior to the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland at Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: David Pocock collides with a post as he catches the ball during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland at Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Players and coaching staff pose prior to the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland at Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Bernard Foley (L) and Stephen Moore look on during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland at Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: James Slipper evades team mate Sekope Kepu during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland at Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Quade Cooper in action during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland at Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Dean Mumm (R) walks onto the pitch with team mates during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland at Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 25: Bernard Foley (L) and Stephen Moore look on during the Australia Captain's Run on the eve of their international match against Ireland at Aviva Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 24: Sekope Kepu of Australia looks for a pass during an Australia training session at the RDS Arena on November 24, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 24: Will Genia of Australia looks for a pass during an Australia training session at the RDS Arena on November 24, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 24: Rory Arnold of Australia releases a pass during an Australia training session at the RDS Arena on November 24, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 24: Bernard Foley of Australia looks for a pass during an Australia training session at the RDS Arena on November 24, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 24: Michael Hooper of Australia hands off Silatolu Latu of Australia during an Australia training session at the RDS Arena on November 24, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

There have been many great Irish performances and many great Irish victories down through the years but few if any to compare with the 80 plus minutes of heroic rugby we witnessed in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Many of us were beginning to wonder if we would ever see the day a W would appear on the credit side of the All Black account. Well it has and how.

The Soldier Field, Chicago 2016 is already etched in the annals of Irish rugby and sporting history. And yet, given its context, what was achieved on Saturday was as good if not better again.

What could possibly be better than bringing to and end that world record run of 18 successive Test victories from the world champions, the greatest team there's ever been?

Well on Saturday just three weeks to the day from that magical afternoon, Joe Schmidt's extended squad produced a display to rank with the most courageous ever witnessed.

At a time when it would have been all too easy to pull up and roll over and though running empty, Rory Best in his 100th test appearance eeked a response in the final 20 minutes when I thought we were dead and buried.

For the life of me I couldn't see any way back. Having gone from 17 points up to four behind (20-24) just after the hour, the issue was not would we lose but by how many - but then came one of those Seamus Dennison moments.

Bernard Foley's long and, if we're absolutely honest, arrogant, floated pass to Michael Hooper provided the outstanding Simon Zebo with his Dennison opportunity and he nailed it. In that split moment the second-half Australian tsunami was arrested and what followed was clinical in the extreme.

This young emerging group of Irish players should be exceptionally proud of what they have achieved. The move to professionalism has made our players bigger, fitter, stronger, faster and indeed more skilful. In those key areas the game has moved on dramatically but one aspect even sports science can't tweak is character.

The desire to dig ever deeper when the tide has clearly turned comes from within. You cannot put a modern day value on good old fashioned 'bottle' and let no-one be in any doubt as to the key roles played by Schmidt and Best in that regard. What they have built is something special with just about every professional player on this island yearning for a Carton House call.

We have two Grand Slams in our rugby playing history - 1948 and 2009. They were great events and far be it for me to undermine either. However when measured against the three southern hemisphere scalps taken between June and November this year, aside from winning the World Cup itself this has to be our greatest achievement ever.

Bear in mind, too, that the Springboks were beaten on South African soil, the All Blacks in neutral territory with only the Wallabies on our home patch.

We came up short at the 2015 World Cup because of our limited strength in depth, but Saturday's victory was the perfect example of a game won by a 23-man squad.

In 12 short months, players like Garry Ringrose, Paddy Jackson, Tadhg Furlong, Josh van der Flier, Joey Carbery, Ultan Dillane and Finlay Bealham are up to starting with Kieran Marmion well on the way (his contribution was courage personified on the wing).

Van der Flier comes off the bench against New Zealand and ends up challenging Beauden Barrett for man of the match, then against the Wallabies comes in at the 11th hour for Sean O'Brien and duly takes that accolade.

Of the restructured backline that took the field against Australia, only three finished in the role they started with Ringrose, in theory, out of position regardless. And while I still believe Jared Payne's most effective attacking position to be full-back, I fully comprehend why Schmidt wants the key communicative piece in the backline jigsaw in his most effective slot.

Payne is the glue that binds it all together but with D'Arcy and O'Driscoll retired, Henshaw injured and Payne called ashore at the break, Ringrose was a rock of stability in that second half and particularly during the Wallabies' attacking onslaught.

His first-half opportunist try was an O'Driscoll arc to a T but it was his D'Arcy or Henshaw-like carrying in defence, creating the platform for Conor Murray and Jackson to clear that saw him come of age.

As for Jackson he is playing it flat and close to the gain-line and, despite Carbery's massive potential, is a shadow No10 to Sexton and pushing ever closer to that slot in his own right.

We have never had it so good in the front row where Furlong (alongside Jack McGrath and Best) has been awesome.

The Six Nations and England can't come quickly enough.

Belfast Telegraph

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