Ireland are the world's best, then.

Certainly that is now true of 2018. Six Nations champions, and now having secured their first home victory over the All Blacks in history, to go alongside their maiden win two years ago, they are deserving of that mantle.

The All Blacks have held the No 1 mantle for the past nine years, and still do despite this second defeat of the year.

But this was the best against the best. And Ireland prevailed.


Forget the rankings, that's all there is to it.

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This clinical performance, which proved Chicago was no fluke and Ireland are indeed serious World Cup contenders, is all the more impressive for it coming without Conor Murray, Sean O'Brien, Robbie Henshaw and Dan Leavy.

With their phenomenal shoulder-to-shoulder fans roaring, singing, throughout and riding every moment of the absorbing contest, one befitting of the top two teams, Ireland expertly controlled this match.

Now unbeaten in their past 11 home tests, Ireland found success putting the ball in behind the All Blacks and going to air; Johnny Sexton's high hoists proving difficult to defuse. They defended with heart and hunger to get off the line, and when that didn't work they simply held onto the ball.

The All Blacks have now had flaws exposed this season by South Africa, England and Ireland and while it is far from panic stations, concerns are evident with the pinnacle event so close.

They will absorb lessons and respond, but belief among other top nations is growing after the eighth loss of Steve Hansen's tenure.

Joe Schmidt had this match against his countrymen circled on the calendar for some time and it was, therefore, no surprise to witness one of his creative plays come up trumps in a big way.


Put Jacob Stockdale's try – the only of the match - down to Schmidt identifying the All Blacks' weak spot on the short side. The switch move from the lineout between Sexton and Bundee Aki created just enough space for Stockdale to execute the training ground blueprint.

Irish blindside Peter O'Mahony was another hero; every bit deserving of his standing ovation when he hobbled off. His efforts in gaining crucial breakdown turnovers encapsulated Ireland's commitment to contest everything.

The All Blacks weren't helped by losing Liam Squire midway through the first half and Ireland fullback Rob Kearney was probably lucky not to receive a yellow card for his clumsy challenge which saw Rieko Ioane take a nasty tumble from the air.

Ireland's Johnny Sexton is tackled by Ryan Crotty of the All Blacks. Photo / Getty
Ireland's Johnny Sexton is tackled by Ryan Crotty of the All Blacks. Photo / Getty

But, otherwise, there can be few grumbles.

With so few attacking chances the All Blacks were guilty of lacking patience. Rather than setting and going again they went for the all or nothing option. So often those come off for the All Blacks. Today was not one of those days.

There was no lack of effort or attitude from the All Blacks but, this time, when the pressure hit, even their leaders made mistakes.


The lineout didn't execute down the stretch; the scrum wobbled, Kieran Read, while strong in other aspects, couldn't re-gather his charge-down with Jack Goodhue looming up outside him and the line open.

After making one decisive second half burst Beauden Barrett, superb off the tee, threw an offload to an Irishman.

When Brodie Retallick dropped the final play after a long build-up it was symptomatic of the scrappy finish from the entire team.

There would be no repeat of the great 2013 escape.

Once again, Andy Farrell's defensive system held the All Blacks tryless.

Everywhere you looked there was another desperate man in green.


The All Blacks just could not impose their game, their tempo, their sublime skills. And for that, again, Ireland deserves every accolade.

Ireland set the tone prior to kick-off by taking a couple of steps forward to accept the challenge of the haka. When they then formed a huddle for the final pre-start message, it was clear they were right up for this.

The All Blacks knew Ireland would bring their suffocating game but for long periods were powerless to negate it. Their tactics appeared to be geared towards chasing territory through the boot of Barrett and, while this worked early, as the match wore on they struggled to get the ball back.

Playing without the ball always increases the risk of giving away penalties and the All Blacks quickly found themselves on the wrong side of referee Wayne Barnes. The 9-2 half time penalty count was the main reasons they were forced to make 34 more tackles than Ireland.

The game opened up in the second half but the All Blacks couldn't take their chances.

And so as Ireland did their lap of honour, another chapter in this fierce rivalry is written.