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LIMERICK - When the unbeaten All Blacks strode onto Thomond Park they probably took little notice of the little balding bloke with the beard.

Seamus Dennison hardly looked the part, even in rugby's amateur era.

The slightly-built history teacher had won the last of his four caps for Ireland three seasons previous; a recall was not in prospect.

He gave his marker at centre that afternoon Bruce Robertson a two stone weight advantage, and five inches in height.

Yet when Munster's remarkable 12-0 defeat of Graham Mourie's Grand Slam winners is recalled by the participants, Dennison is often the focal point, the man who actually made the biggest impression.

Christy Cantillon scored the try, Tony Ward kicked the conversion and dropped two goals - but teammates, opponents, even the referee, consider Dennison's bone-jarring tackle on Stu Wilson as the moment Munster believed, the instant the All Blacks were brought down to a level playing field.

The tackle is etched on the consciousness of all at the ground that day and the 100,000 spectators who claimed to have witnessed it.

Alan English's seminal account of the match: Stand Up And Fight - When Munster Beat the All Blacks contains a grainy image of the point of impact, appropriate as the collision happened in a blur.

Wilson, who was coming off his wing in search of a midfield hole, did not sense Dennison was about to close it: "This little fella absolutely blew me back. He just propelled straight into my rib cage," he recounted in English's book.

The All Blacks wing called the move a second time, with just a slight variation.

He would aim to enter the line outside Robertson rather than Lyn Jaffray.

"Next thing I know I'm on the floor again. Same guy, same tackle, same result."

Rattled and winded, Wilson was in no mood to try third time lucky just before halftime.

When the move was suggested Wilson was a beaten man: "I said No, cancel it. I knew where it would end up - with me getting buried by another big tackle."

Wilson's defeatist attitude had permeated the entire All Black team by then, Munster's defence was too fierce, defined by Dennison's first-up belligerence.

"It was a big psychological moment. It proved to us what (coach) Tommy Kiernan had been saying all along - they were the same as us, they were ordinary guys," said Dennison's midfielder partner that day, Greg Barrett.

The referee didn't miss the significance either, telling English: "I looked around and every Munster player had grown 12 inches. In that one tackle Seamus Dennison confirmed the reality to the Munster team. The reality they could win."

Once they had, the Munster team broke up and returned to their day jobs as bank officers, builders and students.

Dennison is still teaching, reckons he's four or five years from retirement and he's never left Roscrea, County Tipperary.

It's predominately hurling country so Dennison and his wife Lally have been able to live in relative anonymity - at least until the last decade or so when interest in Munster's exploits in 1978 has steadily increased.

The All Blacks return to the scene of one of their most enduring defeats for tomorrow night's 30th anniversary rematch has also him seen him sought out.

It is an enjoyable chore, but in a sense the novelty has also worn off.

"It's funny, in Ireland there was nothing much made of the game for about 20 years," he said.

Dennison thought the consistent failure of the national side to beat the All Blacks - the 22nd attempt ended with a 22-3 defeat in Dublin last weekend - was sadly placing greater emphasis on his side's achievement.

"It's only in the last 10 years or so we've been invited to different functions. We meet once a year now, we're a great crowd for turning up."

Munster's development into a fully fledged professional franchise - and their subsequent success at Heineken Cup level - also saw the 1978s team's place is history reassessed.

The book and a play have also raised the old blokes' profiles.

Dennison grimaces at the thought of a movie.

"I'd love to see someone else take over, I'd love if it was the national side but that doesn't look likely," he lamented, after watching a tape of Ireland's 22-3 loss to the All Blacks at Dublin on Sunday.

"So hopefully Munster win. We've had 30 years out of this - I think that's enough."

In the meantime, Dennison will always be remembered for his tackle, not that he sees it as his legacy.

"I played for Ireland, that was the absolute pinnacle."

And the Irishman certainly doesn't rub it in when meeting Wilson - over the years the pair have crossed paths twice in less confrontational circumstances.

"We had a gathering in Cork some years ago and he was invited as the guest speaker, he was great value."

Dennison then caught up with his old target while following Ireland's two-test tour to New Zealand in 2006.

"We don't make much of the tackle to be quite honest," he said.

"We had a nice few drinks together, just reminiscing."

The 1978 team met will gather at Thomond Park for a luncheon tomorrow where they will present the Munster player in their position with his jersey to wear against the All Blacks.

It will be an interesting experience for Dennison, who never envisaged presenting a proud member of Ngati Porou with a Munster shirt.

Rua Tipoki, the former New Zealand Maori captain, has been named at centre.

Dennison will also be cheering former All Blacks winger Doug Howlett and Taranaki midfielder Lifeimi Mafi on as well.

"No, I didn't see that coming, but saying that they're three terrific guys that have made a huge contribution to the Munster effort."

Game details:

Munster 12 (Christy Cantillon try; Tony Ward 2 dropped goals, con) New Zealand 0. Halftime: 9-0. Crowd: 12,000.

All Blacks: Brian McKechnie, Stu Wilson, Bruce Robertson (replaced by Bill Osborne), Lyn Jaffray, Bryan Wiliams, Eddie Dunn, Mark Donaldson, Ash McGregor, Wayne Graham, Graham Mourie (captain), Andy Haden, Frank Oliver, Gary Knight, John Black, Brad Johnstone.

Munster: Larry Moloney, Moss Finn, Seamus Dennison, Greg Barrett, Jimmy Bowen, Tony Ward, Donal Canniffe (captain), Donal Spring, Colm Tucker, Christy Cantillon, Brendan Foley, Moss Keane, Les White, Pat Whelan, Gerry McLoughlin.

- NZPA