Last night Ireland finally, after 111 years of trying, closed the book on one of rugby’s longest ever losing streaks and in doing also ended international rugby’s longest winning streak.
In beating the mighty All Blacks 40-29 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Joe Schmidt’s Ireland become the first test side to defeat the world champions since Australia beat their southern hemisphere neighbours 27-19 on 8 August 2015.
Last night in Chicago, the Irish band of brothers was raw with emotion. Still reeling from the loss of their friend, coach and colleague Anthony Foley, Ireland paid a fitting tribute to their former captain by lining out against the famous All Black Haka in a figure eight pattern, Foley’s shirt number for club and country.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 5, 2016
As if galvanised by their desire to honour their friend, Ireland were not to be denied. Their 25-8 half time lead was whittled down to 33-29 heading into the final quarter. Unlike previous heartbreaking defeats however, Ireland dug deep to earn their place in history. A fifth try by Robbie Henshaw sealed a famous victory for Ireland and left New Zealand to rue their early uncharacteristic inaccuracies.
Following Ireland’s win, the New Zealand media has had their say on watching their team finally succumb to the Irish.
— nzherald Rugby (@nzheraldrugby) November 6, 2016
Immediately following the match, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen conceded to sideline reporters that the right team won. As reported by the NZ Herald, Hansen was gracious in defeat,
“The right team won. The Irish played very well and congratulations to them. When you see their fans going like they are now, it’s about time they won one anyway.”
Rugby Heaven also reported the words of Hansen as he made no excuses for his side’s defeat,
“I thought it was smart play by them (Ireland). People will say ‘oh you didn’t have your two locks’ but we haven’t got any excuses. We just got beaten by a better side on the day.”
Ireland’s victory highlighted the brotherhood among rugby’s elite as despite their disappointment, some of the All Blacks’ biggest stars were quick to congratulate.
Congratulations Ireland on making history, it shows that even the best can lose! #18inarow I'm sure the boys will bounce back.
— Sonny Bill Williams (@SonnyBWilliams) November 6, 2016
— Dan Carter (@DanCarter) November 5, 2016
Congratulations Ireland 👏🏾
— Malakai Fekitoa (@MalakaiFekitoa) November 6, 2016
All Blacks captain Kieran Reid, via BT Sports, also offered his congratulations.
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) November 5, 2016
Former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick and Richie McCaw offered his their congratulations.
Go Ireland 🇮🇪 so deserved. Congratulations. #IREvNZL
— Sean Fitzpatrick (@SFitzpatrick92) November 5, 2016
— Sir Richie McCaw (@RichieHMcCaw) November 5, 2016
With Ireland’s 111-year old hoodoo finally put to bed, Joe Schmidt’s heroes will travel back home to what will likely be an impromptu rapturous welcome, before knuckling down to face Canada at the Aviva Stadium next Saturday.
It’s onward and upward now!
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena