Perfect Ireland deliver a performance for the ages against the world's best rugby side

This was by far the best performance I have ever witnessed by any Irish side because it encompassed all the components that are needed to be victorious against any team from any region in the world.
Perfect Ireland deliver a performance for the ages against the world's best rugby side

Ireland's Peter O’Mahony at the end of the win over New Zealand. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

IRISH sport has had some very seminal moments over the ages.

I think what transpired in Dublin over the weekend will rank right up there as one of the country’s most extraordinary.

David O'Leary’s penalty v Romania World Cup 1990, Eamonn Coghlan’s famous fist-pumping gesture on his way to winning gold at the 1983 World Championship, Ireland beating England at Croke Park 2007, Katie Taylor winning the world title 2017, Ray Houghton scoring as Ireland beat England in the European Soccer Championships in 1988 and Munster beating the All Blacks in 1978 are all occasions where we as a tiny island have proven that, it is not the size of the dog in the fight that matters but more so, the size of the fight in the dog that rules the day.

For over a hundred years, Irish rugby had huffed and puffed against the might of New Zealand’s magnificent warriors and could never find a way to see past the physical and mental challenges that encompassed the famous black jersey. 

Thankfully, that all changed in 2016 when we caught them napping in the unfamiliar surroundings of Chicago during an exhibition game and again in the Aviva two years later. 

Both of these performances were special in so many ways however, the manner in which things unfolded on Saturday has brought Irish rugby into a completely new stratosphere.

Beating the team ranked number one in the world in any sport is a major accomplishment for any side however, on this occurrence it is not so much the result that set my heart racing, it was the way they went about it that had me salivating on the edge of my seat.

The Ireland team do a lap of honour and applaud the fans at the Aviva. Picture: INPHO/Gary Carr
The Ireland team do a lap of honour and applaud the fans at the Aviva. Picture: INPHO/Gary Carr

For decades Irish rugby was synonymous with displays of bravery and passion where they had teams screaming for oxygen entering the final quarter of the game, but as sure as night follows day their efforts soon turned from exhibitions of dominance to acts of survival where they themselves were the ones gasping for oxygen and in the end would finish the tie in second place because of a lack of fitness or belief, but not on Saturday.

From minute one to eighty, Ireland played with a kind of overwhelming dominance that I have never seen before. 

Yes’, I have witnessed it in fits and starts, but never for the complete duration of a game and certainly never against a team with New Zealand’s pedigree.

It was like as if each and every player in a green jersey had an endless stockpile of sinew that fuelled their ability to win nearly every physical encounter and when you play against a side like the All Blacks who have very little comprehension of what it is like to fail, you know you have just witnessed something remarkable.

Some might argue that this game was only a friendly and that when it matters most, like during a World Cup, Ireland are either under or over cooked and we end up bowing out with our tails lodged firmly between our legs, but there was something so different about Saturday’s win. Something that really has me thinking that we could actually win a world cup.

Two weekend's ago when Andy Farrell's players completely demolished Japan they did so by winning every gainline battle and never took their foot off the gas. 

Like a tsunami they just kept on coming and finished off most attacks with a score.

I like many others had thought that to replicate this kind of dominance would be impossible against the All Blacks without the aid of a baseball bat, but I was wrong.

In almost ever statistic available to us Ireland came out on top. 

From meters gained, carries made, tries scored, passes completed to turn overs won, Johnny Sexton and his players lorded the day. 

Ireland's Keith Earls tackles Sevu Reece of New Zealand. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Ireland's Keith Earls tackles Sevu Reece of New Zealand. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

In fact, the only statistic that they didn’t win was the tackle count and when you read that New Zealand had to make 235 tackles to Irelands 101, it just demonstrates to you how much possession Ireland actually had.

On occasions like this it is very hard to single out any individual for additional kudos however, for me I just thought Jamison Gibson-Park was magnificent and played the game just as every scrum half should do.

As soon as the ball was presented at a breakdown, Park had it spiralling towards the next rampaging Irish player which allowed for constant and continues forward momentum. 

Never once did he allow for the All-Blacks defence to get comfortable and were it not for one or two unforced errors, Ireland could have won the game by a bigger margin.

Park has undoubtably and deservingly assumed ownership of the number nine jersey from Conor Murray and it will be very interesting to see how Murray counters. 

Unquestionably, Murray has what it takes to win it back, but the big question is, will his Munster coach allow him to play the way Ireland want him to play?

The other three players that really stood out for me were James Lowe, Tadhg Furlong and Bundee Aki.

The modern game demands that each accomplished team must contain at least three or four dominant ball carrying bulldozers that are capable of gaining territory every time they carry into contact and the power that these three individuals displayed on Saturday places them at the Everest of the game.

This was by far the best performance I have ever witnessed by any Irish side because it encompassed all the components that are needed to be victorious against any team from any region in the world.

It was ruthless without being stupid, relentless without running out of fuel, clever in its execution and most importantly the goal was achieved by having in place a complete process, because if you chase your goal without having a proper and fit for purpose process, your chances of achieving your final destination are stacked against you.

Role on Argentina and the Six Nations.

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