Ireland stun All Blacks and give the Lions hope for 2017
New Zealand beaten by Ireland for the first time in 111 years and lose their 18-match winning streak in a stunning upset in Chicago
Ireland 40 New Zealand 29
Ireland has beaten New Zealand for the first time in 111 years, ending at the same time the All Blacks' record-breaking run of 18 consecutive wins in one of the biggest-ever rugby upsets.
The remarkable 40-29 victory over the world champions played out at Soldier Field in Chicago as the two teams met in the US at the start of their autumn schedules.
"Never mind the greatest performance in Ireland's history," says Stephen Jones in the Sunday Times, the "stunning" triumph "may have been the best in anyone's history".
Ireland were playing their first game since last season, while New Zealand were coming off the back of a clean sweep in the Rugby Championship. Few people expected the game even to be close, but "in the face of magnificent Irish aggression, good judgment, wisdom and great rugby, the sporting mortality of the men in black was in no doubt", says Jones.
Ireland were the more disciplined team with a shock lead of 30–8 early in the second half. But, as ever, the All Blacks rallied and looked set to overhaul their rivals as they have done many times in the past. This time, however, the Irish regrouped and added the points needed to make the game safe.
Ireland "tore into the Kiwis and matched them in every area – intensity, pace, commitment but crucially in their intent to play total rugby", says Brian Moore of the Daily Telegraph.
"The All Blacks did not show the heights of recent form and they had some players missing but that is not the responsibility of the Irish. Moreover, many of the errors were forced by the line speed of the Irish defence and their tenacity at the breakdown where they met the Kiwi runners and stopped them getting over the gain line."
The result could be of huge significance ahead of the Lions tour of New Zealand next year.
The victory is "the result of positive, clever, calculated rugby", says Clive Woodward in the Daily Mail. "The much-vaunted All Blacks just could not handle it."
It proves they are human after all, he adds: "Many were putting them on a pedestal and forgetting that they are flesh and blood."
The result is a "massive boost" for the Lions, as the players hoping to make the team must now match Ireland's heroes if they want to make the cut.
The performance of the Irish side was also inspired by the memory of Anthony Foley, who died last month.
The players stood in a number eight formation to face the haka – a tribute to the former Ireland captain.
"Ireland went to the kick-off with all the intensity and emotion. Foley would have loved every minute of this match. All that is good about Irish rugby was there for everyone to see," says Woodward.