Eighty minutes of excitement, tension and ultimately heartbreak
A day that slipped from Ireland’s grasp in the cruellest way. This is how it went
Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll and Conor Murray jump with New Zealand’s Ma’a Nonu during yesterday’s match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
1st minute: At the first break in play, New Zealand scrum half Aaron Smith hangs onto the ball as Seán O’Brien tries to get on with the game. O’Brien pushes Smith to the ground. O’Brien is in none-of-your guff mood already.
3rd minute: Ireland on the front foot. Their handling secure, their rucking explosive. New Zealand look unfocused. Brian O’Driscoll kicks a grubber into the 22 where it is knocked on by an All Black hand. Little signs.
5th minute: Big reward. First Irish try. Belligerent carries by Cian Healy, Devin Toner and Peter O’Mahony push the All Blacks back. Conor Murray snipes from a ruck close to the line and burrows his way past Brodie Retallick and over. Johnny Sexton ices the conversion. New Zealand haven’t got their hands on the ball yet. 7-0.
7th minute: First All Black attack. Aaron Cruden slips past Jamie Heaslip, feeds Julian Savea who kicks low to bring play deep into the Ireland 22. Ireland’s defensive line-out is solid though. Paul O’Connell takes, Murray clears. More signs.
10th minute: More reward. O’Brien spots daylight and shoots bald-headed towards it. Only a desperate grab of his jersey by Sam Whitelock keeps him from getting away. Offloads to Murray who keeps the momentum up before finding Rory Best. In keeping with the general air of madness, Best throws a dummy before going over. Sexton repeats the dose. 14-0.
17th minute: This is officially nuts. New Zealand find some rhythm and advance down the right wing, only for Israel Dagg to juggle a Cruden pass and spill it into the grateful arms of Rob Kearney. On his own 22, the Ireland fullback looks up and sees nothing but acres of Dublin 4 ahead of him. Head down, ball tucked, no tomorrow. Sexton’s conversion attempt comes back off the post. Nobody cares. 19-0.
26th minute: All Blacks spot that Tommy Bowe has come all the way across to the left wing to help with the defensive effort, leaving O’Driscoll to stand lone sentry over half the width of the pitch. Cruden kicks in behind, the bounce is kind to Savea. 19-7.
31st minute: Cian Healy blitzes through Richie McCaw. That is all.
32nd minute: Wyatt Crockett pinged for collapsing the scrum. Sexton has a penalty from the same spot as the conversion that hit the post. No mistake this time around. 22-7.
Half-time: Everything going Ireland’s way. Cruden fluffs a touch-finder from midfield. Heaslip and Gordon D’Arcy lift the roof with a choke tackle. Sexton ends the half with a kick high into the crowd. The place erupts.
41st minute: Long way to go. Murray spills an easy catch. Rob Kearney kicks a sloppy clearance. Unsettling.
49th minute: All Blacks own the ball at this point. Dagg finds an alley out on the right and sprints for the line. Looks like a try. Nigel Owens goes to the TMO, asks if anyone got a hand underneath the ball. Turns out Murray did. No try.
52nd minute: Great defence from Ireland. First Bowe and later Murray come up quickly to intercept. But just when they look like they’ve cleared their lines, Owens calls penalty on Toner for obstructing Crockett as the All Black prop tried to block the clearance. Cruden takes the easy three. 22-10.
53rd minute: O’Driscoll off. Looks dazed after a hit on Retallick. His last ever tilt at the All Blacks and he’ll have to watch it from the stands.
60th minute: Ireland hanging on by hanging in. Plenty of breaks going their way. Cruden scuffs a penalty from midfield. Ma’a Nonu trips on the scruffy part of the pitch (thank you kindly, Roger Waters) and is nailed for holding on. A Retallick tackle on Rob Kearney is a fraction mistimed and he’s done for taking him out in the air. Ireland can’t get out of their half.
65th minute: Second New Zealand try. Only surprise is that it took so long to arrive. Wave after wave of All Black attack is repelled but Ben Franks finally punches it home. Cruden’s conversion is sound, even with Luke Fitzgerald sprinting out into his eyeline. 22-17.
68th minute: Bodies everywhere. Cian Healy off, Seán Cronin down. Ireland have replaced their whole front row. Feels like an hour since they were in the New Zealand half.
70th minute: A jailbreak. Sexton spots a bit of space and chips into it, Fitzgerald makes a nuisance of himself to force a knock-on. Ireland on the front foot, finally.
71st minute: Murray chips down the line, Bowe chases and forces Beauden Barrett into touch. Nothing surer than O’Connell calling the line-out on himself. He gathers and Ireland maul for the line. New Zealand penalised for dragging it down. Sexton can put Ireland eight clear with the penalty.
72nd minute: Sexton takes an age over it. Or rather, the tension in the stadium makes it seem like an age. It’s straight-forward enough – on the 22, about 15 metres in from the right. Regulation stuff for him, usually. But this one slides to the right. Touch judges look at each other and shake their heads. Ireland have given a sucker an even break.
75th minute: It was Sexton’s last act. Looks utterly disconsolate as he comes off to be replaced by Ian Madigan.
77th minute: Ireland trying to pick-and-go the All Blacks to death and mostly succeeding. Murray breaks the sequence by hoisting a box kick that immediately looks a bad idea. Nonu knocks on though. Ireland spared. For now.
80th minute: Jack McGrath goes off his feet and the All Blacks get one last chance. Read makes a break, Nonu carries. Ireland push them back and shove them wide. But then, disaster. Ireland run out of numbers. Ryan Crotty is the last man out. Over in the corner. Cruden misses the conversion but Owens orders a retake on account of Fitzgerald breaking too early. Cruden nails it. New Zealand lead for the only time all afternoon. 22-24.Heartbreak.