Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

At last! Irish luck finally holds

What a win!

Ireland's record against the All Blacks has been a shocker - one draw and 27 defeats. Yet they have been better than those numbers suggest, and have been robbed a few times along the way.

The men in green wrote themselves into the record books in Chicago today. Here are six previous epic battles between the men in black and emerald green.

1973: Ireland 10, New Zealand 10; Dublin
A famous missed goal. Or was it? The man at the centre of this drama says that he and Ireland were robbed.

Barry McGann was a talented sportsman despite a frame that was chunky enough to have led the famous Irish and Lions wing Tony O'Reilly to comment that "twice around McGann makes you a bona fide traveller".

McGann was good enough at football to have played under-18s for Ireland, beating a Dutch side including Johan Cruyff in the UEFA finals. Rugby brought him longer lasting recognition...and frustration.

Tom Grace was mobbed by the crowd after scoring the score-levelling try near the right hand touchline. A gust of wind helped pushed McGann's conversion wide, although he disputes this.

In 100 Irish Rugby Greats by John Scally, McGann says:"I missed out on rugby fame...the kick was so high that it was difficult to see which side of the post the ball went but to this day, I'm convinced it that the ball did not go wide."

The All Blacks were the dominant side but in the just-published Behind the Silver Fern, first five-eighths Bob Burgess wonders if a nearby bomb blast during the game put the home side off and affected McGann. The blast killed a bus conductor named Tommy Douglas, yet another tragedy of the Irish "troubles".

The Irish team that day included legends Mike Gibson, Willie John McBride and Fergus Slattery. After the game, McBride said: "The aura of invincibility that used to surround the All Blacks has gone."

Bryan Williams and Bob Burgess, either 1971 or 1972. New Zealand All Blacks. Photo: Photosport.co.nz
Bryan Williams and Bob Burgess, either 1971 or 1972. New Zealand All Blacks. Photo: Photosport.co.nz
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1963: New Zealand 6, Ireland 5; Dublin
The All Blacks captained by Wilson Whineray contained great names including Don Clarke, Ken Gray, Colin and Stan Meads, and Kel Tremain. They were on their way to sweeping aside most opponents on the long tour when they struck the Irish - including the great Willie John McBride - for the first test of the campaign.

Ireland had a fast, lightweight pack including Eamonn McGuire, a superb all round sportsman who brought tremendous speed to the flanker position. He played eight tests, and his most famous or infamous moment came in this one.

Flyer McGuire put the tourists off their stride by applying pressure on the mercurial first five-eighth Mac Herewini. As Men in Black records it, Ireland managed just one second half attack "which ended with a scramble over the New Zealand goal line".

Ireland, however, recalls it a little differently. Sportswriter Ralph O'Gorman put it thus: "Eamonn McGuire got over the New Zealand try-line, with the ball, but the referee didn't actually see him ground it and, accordingly, he couldn't award the score."
McGuire - who rose to become a chief fire officer - was diagnosed with motor neuron disease and died three years ago, apparently having said little to nothing about the try that never was.

Irish legend Willie John McBride. Photo / Photosport
Irish legend Willie John McBride. Photo / Photosport

1978: New Zealand 10, Ireland 6; Dublin
Were Ireland robbed again? Or, even more extraordinarily, did Ireland deliberately hold back?

More Lansdowne Rd heartache. This was an Irish side sprinkled with legendary characters - Phil Orr, Fergus Slattery, Moss Keane, Willie Duggan, Tony Ward and the king of centres Mike Gibson, towards the end of his magnificent career. The All Blacks had just suffered a famous defeat against Munster.

With the score at six-all, a lineout move in the final minutes produced the winning try to hooker Andy Dalton. Ireland finished the game hot on attack but were kept at bay, and Graham Mourie's All Blacks had taken the first step on what was to become a Grand Slam.

"Had we not lost to Munster, we probably would have lost to Ireland four days later. All Black teams don't very often lose back to back," lock Andy Haden said years later.

Some in Ireland claimed skulduggery, that Dalton illegally blocked opposite Pat Whelan. Replays suggest the merest hint of a block, but Irish and Munster forward Donal Spring was adamant.

"They scored a try in very dubious circumstances...their hooker Dalton used a little trick around the front of the lineout which became very popular thereafter, of pushing his opposite man in the back when the referee wasn't looking. Touch judges didn't interfere in those days."

Spring added an intriguing twist, involving his fellow Munster-man and famous Irish lock Keane.
"Mossie decided near the end of that game if Ireland won as well the Munster match would be forgotten so I think he went back a gear at that point."

Moss Keane (L) after the Munster victory over the All Blacks. Photo / Photosport
Moss Keane (L) after the Munster victory over the All Blacks. Photo / Photosport

1992: New Zealand 24, Ireland 21; Dunedin
The strangest tilt at victory of them all, being away from home and involving a nondescript Irish lineup. Their captain was centre Phil Danaher - now who would get that correct in a quiz night.

As Men in Black reckoned, it would have been the upset of the century. Most judged Ireland to be the better side.

The scores were level at halftime, and the tourists led 21 -18 early in the second spell. A few minutes later Frank Bunce - one of the few All Blacks to impress - scored the winning try.

The bizarre nature of this near miss was amplified a week later, when the re-jigged All Blacks smashed this Irish team 59 - 3 in Wellington.

Frank Bunce in action during the rugby union match between the All Blacks and Ireland, 1992. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/PHOTOSPORT
Frank Bunce in action during the rugby union match between the All Blacks and Ireland, 1992. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/PHOTOSPORT

2012: New Zealand 22, Ireland 19; Christchurch
Another curio, reminiscent of the 1992 game in Dunedin. The tourists lost the first test by 32 points in Auckland, and were crushed 60 - 0 in the third at Waikato Stadium. In between they were unlucky in defeat in Christchurch where they fell to a late Dan Carter drop goal.
Once again they could claim to be hard done by, this time by late rulings from Welsh referee Nigel Owens. The All Blacks were assisted by a tough knock-on call when Ireland were on attack, and a dubious penalty at the resulting scrum.

Dan Carter kicks the dropped goal which broke Irish hearts in Christchurch. Photo/ Photosport
Dan Carter kicks the dropped goal which broke Irish hearts in Christchurch. Photo/ Photosport

2013: New Zealand 24, Ireland 22; Dublin
One of the most famous matches in rugby history, featuring maybe the greatest try of them all. With time almost up, and Ireland leading 22 - 17, referee Nigel Owens found a marginal penalty against replacement prop Jack McGrath for leaving his feet at a ruck with Ireland in possession.

Extraordinary All Black skill and composure, involving many rucks and some 24 passes, created a stunning long range try to Ryan Crotty. A slight leg twitch from goal kicker Aaron Cruden drew an early charge by the Irish, and he nailed the second conversion attempt from near the sideline.

This was sporting drama at its finest, something easily lost on the Irish.

"This is probably the low point, for me, in my rugby career," veteran back Gordon D'Arcy told irishrugby.ie. "They had the hands on hips. They (the All Blacks) were blowing out their ass...you just have to be a little more clinical maybe."
Johnny Sexton missed a 73rd minute penalty which would have sealed the historic victory. Ireland are unlucky at times, but don't always help themselves.

Great Irish lock Paul O'Connell reflects his team's bitter disappointment after the late Ryan Crotty try. Photo / Dan Sheridan Photosport
Great Irish lock Paul O'Connell reflects his team's bitter disappointment after the late Ryan Crotty try. Photo / Dan Sheridan Photosport

- NZ Herald

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