Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Irish pack key to historic victory

As the post mortems begin on his All Blacks defeat, their first ever against Ireland, the first issue under the spotlight should be how crucial were the absences of their three top locks - Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano.

The All Blacks were badly beaten up front, for the first time in a long while. It wasn't just the lineout, though they lost three in the first half, including a crucial one after a penalty.

It was at the contact point, too. Without Retallick and Whitelock, both injured, and Romano, who went home due to a family bereavement, the big Irish men such as the giant Devin Toner and Donnacha Ryan were able to stop the All Blacks in their tracks.

They got quicker ball in the second half, but the All Blacks were in a real hole at halftime. In the end it was too deep, and how the Irish deserved to celebrate at the final whistle. Robbie Henshaw's try which sealed it in the final five minutes would have set off some special feelings in Cork and Dublin and Kilkenny.

They paid tribute to the late international and Munster coach Anthony Foley when facing the haka in a figure of eight - Foley's number as a player, and at the end of a week in which the Chicago Cubs broke their 108-year losing streak, clearly the men in green were imbued with a special type of self belief in this city.

Listen: Israel Dagg speaks with Tony Veitch after the loss

Three years after the All Blacks survived their scare in Dublin with an extraordinary second-half comeback, there was no way back from this one; their test winning streak halted at 18. It took an incredible effort to do so from Ireland, particularly on defence, to get their first win over the All Blacks in 111 years.

The All Blacks got within four points but in the end lost their composure. Their handling and ball skills, normally so self assured, went south along with their hopes.

Patrick Tuipulotu wasn't his usual powerful self at lock, with Jerome Kaino clearly trying, but it was a big call shifting him to the second row from blindside flanker. With his three top locks out, though, coach Steve Hansen had little choice.

Listen: Grant Fox reacts after the loss

There is no doubt Aaron Smith picked a bad time to have a below-par game, his first after his suspension. He and a lot of his teammates looked flat; their opponents in green were men possessed but played intelligently. Clearly their Kiwi coach Joe Schmidt has made a huge difference.

There will be a re-match in Dublin in a fortnight, and on this evidence the Irish will be difficult to beat. How quickly things change in this game.

- NZ Herald

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