Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: A minute away from history - devastated Schmidt

Ben Smith congratulates Aaron Cruden after the All Blacks number 10 kicked the winning conversion to bear Ireland. Photo / Getty Images
Ben Smith congratulates Aaron Cruden after the All Blacks number 10 kicked the winning conversion to bear Ireland. Photo / Getty Images

A day of heartbreak for Ireland. Another night of pain, what ifs and could have beens.

They won't care that they were heroic. They won't care that they won global admiration for their execution, contact work, creativity and crunching defence. It won't matter one little bit that they went 79 minutes head to head against the All Blacks and led.

What matters to them is that they contrived to lose a game when they had the ball and there was only 30 seconds left on the clock.

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They will all try hard not to think about Johnny Sexton's missed penalty with a few minutes left. It was kick-able and if it had gone over, history was Ireland's to grasp and cherish: to drink and make merry with until the wee small hours.

Imagine the party in Dublin..? But it wasn't to be and who in Ireland isn't thinking that maybe it's never to be. They came so close in Christchurch last year and now today.

The fact Aaron Cruden had to be given a second go at the conversion - well, that was just cruel, but what choice did the referee have? The Irish had rushed early and the rules are the rules.

Anyway, Ireland's coach Joe Schmidt didn't care about that. The game should have been closed out long before then, he reckoned.

"You never feel the taste of it [victory] in your mouth until the final whistle goes and we had to play to the final whistle and they got over in injury time," he said.

"We were in possession with 20 seconds to go and were penalised for off our feet and we had to defend that last phase. You've got to be prepared to defend to the end and we didn't quite keep them out.

"It's a step forward but a missed opportunity. You don't get too many opportunities to play against the All Blacks and you don't get too many opportunities to stop them doing something that was pretty special.

"We were hanging on by a thread and the thread was just a little bit too thin to make sure that we did stop them.

"To be a minute away from history and to have the ball on your hands on their 10-metre line. Yeah, devastating."

Ireland have had too many close but no cigar moments against the All Blacks to feel any joy in this one. The mood in Dublin was unquestionably sombre. None of that brave loser was being bandied about and Ireland could feel only pain about one minute rather than any joy about 79.

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- Herald on Sunday

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