Best sporting moments of the year - No 1: Ireland take down the All Blacks in historic series win

Having lost the first Test, Ireland stormed back to take the series 2-1 on a wild Wellington night

Rugby – New Zealand v Ireland, third Test, Sky Stadium, Wellington, July 16th

Before it all started, New Zealanders took their choreographed stance of intimidation. Eyes popping, knees bent, arms raised and fingers waving in all directions. In front of them, the Irish, still with their tracksuit tops on and some with scrum caps tucked into shorts, stood with arms placed shoulder-to-shoulder and, staying in their own space, let the Kiwis get on with it.

The Haka was a mere precursor.

After the theatrical intro, the real business.


And, some 117 years after the two sides had first played international fare, came the proof of a changed new world order as Ireland completed a historic Test series win in New Zealand, winning the third Test 32-22.

The moments came thick and fast in a first half where Ireland hit the ground running with a tempo that had the All Blacks at sixes and sevens and their support in the Sky Stadium reduced to stunned silence.

The tries came thick and fast in that whirlwind opening. Josh van der Flier. Hugo Keenan. Robbie Henshaw. And a special moment in time for the leader of the orchestra, as Jonny Sexton converted Henshaw’s try and passed the milestone of 1,000 international career points.

In a second half where the New Zealanders threw the kitchen sink at the invaders in seeking to fight back, more moments. Andrew Porter’s yellow card for a head-to-head contact. Yet, a measure of how far Ireland had come was delivered when reduced to 14 men. No surrender. And, to further showcase the depth of the bench, the winning try was delivered by an adopted Springbok.

Rob Herring was not long on as replacement hooker. His throw to Caelan Doris was true and, in the blink of an eye, he had followed up to receive the ball and then add his weight to the back of the maul. When the time came, Herring – head wrapped in white and green bandages – reached out with his left arm and managed to ground the ball for the match-winning try.

Come the end, cue pure joy. “It’s something I never thought was possible as a young fellah,” said the towering presence of Peter O’Mahony, the tears which accompanied his words telling us all we needed to know.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times