Let's start with a couple of facts and then a couple of questions as the dust continues to settle around Chicago's Soldier Field on this day of all days.

Ireland clearly deserved to beat the All Blacks. In their first test since the death of former international and Munster coach Anthony Foley, they tapped into something special in the late afternoon sunshine, forming a special "No8 tribute" for him when fronting the haka and then playing like men possessed, but crucially with heads screwed on.

They played with heart - and there's plenty to like about that - but they also played intelligently, and, crucially, with ambition. That always makes a loss slightly easier to take. They didn't kick the All Blacks into submission, they scored five tries against one of the best defences in the world.

The result proved that there isn't that big a difference between nations in international rugby after all, and the All Blacks' run of victories, described by some as "boring", has come to an end.


The men in green have beaten the world champions. And the reaction in New Zealand was... joy? Respect? Relief for the Irish? Certainly, it appeared to be more good-humoured than the plain grief which often follows an All Black loss. Have we as Kiwis matured a little? Are we more united around our team after their efforts in winning back-to-back World Cups? Or is it the fact that this wasn't a test with the William Webb Ellis Trophy on the line? One can only imagine the difference in reaction had Ireland beaten the All Blacks in a World Cup knockout match.

Maybe what this year of sporting upsets has brought home is the fact that no team is unbeatable, and that it is, after all, only sport. Even should Steve Hansen's men lose the next four tests in a row, the coach is unlikely to be treated like former coach John Hart was by some sections of the public in the late 90s.

Much of it is probably due too to the fact Ireland aren't Australia, South Africa or England, the All Blacks' main rivals. We as New Zealanders also have close links with Ireland; most of us felt that the good-humoured perennial losers deserved to go one better this time, especially after the shock which greeted the latter stages at Dublin's Aviva Stadium almost exactly three years ago when the All Blacks beat them after the full-time hooter.

There the self belief ebbed from the stadium as soon as Johnny Sexton missed a penalty which would have given them a winning buffer, with Aaron Cruden's sideline conversion performing the last rites. Today, though, the self belief, while tested in the second half when the All Blacks got to within four points, held strong. The Irish stood shoulder to shoulder as their anthem demands.

This time the post mortems will be required by the All Blacks, and coach Hansen has the unfamiliar job of a rebuilding process. But he too will have helped New Zealand supporters watching at home with his demeanour and comments after this test.

There was a wry smile on the sideline as he spoke to Sky's Tony Johnson, saying: "The right side won. The Irish played very well and congratulations to them. When you see their fans going like they are now, it's about time they won one anyway."

And then there was Ireland's Kiwi coach Joe Schmidt, who, after being interviewed by Johnson, turned to the camera and said: "Thanks mum, hopefully you enjoyed that. I know you're an All Black fan so I apologise at the same time."

I mean, what's not to like about that?