Irish media praise ‘courageous All Blacks’

The Irish media on Monday saluted the indomitable spirit of the history-making New Zealand side that denied their team an historic victory in Sunday’s memorable 24-22 Test match win at Lansdowne Road.

Ireland great Tony Ward, who was a pivotal member of the Munster side that beat the All Blacks in 1978 and remain the only Irish team to have achieved that feat, said the self belief running through the New Zealanders should not come as a surprise to anyone.

They looked like they were down and out with the Irish leading 22-17 and in possession deep in their half with less than a minute to go but they got a penalty and moved the ball downfield for Ryan Crotty to score a try — which Aaron Cruden converted at the second opportunity.

It ensured the All Blacks became the first side in the professional era to win all their Test matches in a calendar year.

“Courage and conviction had taken them out of a losing hole,” Ward wrote in the ‘Irish Independent’.

“It’s a bitterly disappointing defeat for Ireland, but in the cold light of day pride was restored.

“On Saturday at Wembley, the New Zealand rugby league team performed a never-say-die performance when pipping England at the death. Yesterday their union counterparts repeated the dose.

“In neither case did it happen by chance.”

Ward, who was capped 19 times at fly-half which would have been far more but for the presence of another Irish fly-half great Ollie Campbell, made no bones about how good a side the All Blacks were.

“What we witnessed was a great team, perhaps the greatest ever, at the end of a long and arduous season, getting across a finishing line that at times in the contest seemed way beyond them,” commented the 59-year-old, who also won one British and Irish Lions cap in 1980 scoring 18 points against South Africa.

Ward has been a harsh critic of the Irish in the past but he found little to fault here, though, he sensed that perhaps the best ever chance of beating the All Blacks had slipped by.

“We can trot out all the usual cliches about New Zealand snatching victory from the jaws of defeat and all that guff, but from an Irish perspective this is as tough as it gets.”

Former Ireland captain Donal Lenihan wrote in the ‘Irish Examiner’ that the manner in which the All Blacks scored the final try reflected their legendary rugby culture.

“When it comes to writing rugby history, nobody does it better than New Zealand,” commented the 54-year-old former lock, capped 52 times and who went on three Lions tours.

“To have the confidence, the composure and belief to produce a winning try of the quality delivered by Ryan Crotty at the death of this cliff-hanger explains just why they have been the leading side in the game for so long.

“The All Blacks just refuse to be beaten and always play to the very last second.

“In the visitors dressing room there were no high fives, no champagne corks popping, just life as it is meant to be.”

Ireland’s renowned rugby writer Gerry Thornley writing in the ‘Irish Times’ praised the Kiwis but also best summed up how it must have felt for Irish spectators and players alike.

“It would have seemed a glorious defeat beforehand but certainly not afterwards,” he wrote.

“Regrets? Ireland will have a truckload, but not about the performance for they emptied themselves to a man.

“A twice-taken conversion by Aaron Cruden, from the touchline, put the tin hat on the defeat.

“As sickening defeats go, this was beyond nauseating.”

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