Crunching tackle that rocked an All Black legend

SPORTING TEACHERS/ SÉAMUS DENNISON: Emmet Riordan talks to Séamus Dennison whose powerful tackle on Stu Wilson set the tone …

SPORTING TEACHERS/ SÉAMUS DENNISON: Emmet Riordantalks to Séamus Dennison whose powerful tackle on Stu Wilson set the tone for that incredible 12-0 victory over the All Blacks

IT WAS the tackle that was heard on the other side of the world: the irresistible force of New Zealand star Stu Wilson meeting the immovable object of Munster's Séamus Dennison at Thomond Park 30 years ago.

Wilson was arguably the world's finest winger at that stage, and well known for coming through the middle on devastating runs that left opposing defences for dead.

And although Jimmy Bowen's dazzling run for Christy Cantillon's try or Tony Ward's drop goals are the images that have been replayed a thousand times in the past couple of weeks leading up to the 30th anniversary match between the sides, it was Dennison's crunching tackle on Wilson that set the tone for the incredible 12-0 victory.

"Oh it was very good and quite painful", is how Wilson recalled it, while Moss Keane observed that "Dennison sent him back to Auckland without a plane ticket".

Dennison took his seat at the new Thomond Park last Tuesday with his old Munster team-mates from the side that created their own slice of immortality, not to mention a spin-off industry of books, DVDs and even an award-winning play.

That tradition of physicality was carried into the recent encounter, with the present generation of Munster players going so close to repeating the feat of the men sitting in the stands.

Earlier in the day the team of '78 presented their modern equivalents with their match jerseys. Rua Tipoki would receive his from Dennison and would go on to produce the kind of physical effort that marked out his predecessor's display 30 years ago.

The following day Dennison was back behind his desk at Roscrea Community College, where he has taught history for more than 35 years. Of course his students were more interested in the tales of modern Munster warriors than tales of Brian Boru. "There was quite a bit of interest here in the school, they don't let you forget," admitted Dennison. "Nowadays youngsters will follow any sport, maybe not participating but they follow them and know who's who and what's going on, be it hurling, soccer or rugby."

Neighbours Cistercian College are the shining rugby light in the North Tipperary town, with hurling ruling the roost at the Community College.

Paul Delaney and John Carroll are among the past pupils that walked through the hallways before going on to star for the Premier County.

The sport brought Dennison another highlight of his sporting life. "I coached a hurling team to win an All-Ireland Vocational Schools back in the 80s. That gave me great satisfaction at the time as it was the first that the school won. We've won another one since and also won some junior titles," he said.

"I'd have come from a GAA background in Abbeyfeale and all my early games were Gaelic football. So turning my hand to coaching hurling wouldn't have been a huge step. I don't see much difference between coaching hurling, football or rugby, it's all about the skills and the motivation," he added.

He admits, though, that rugby is still his favourite sport and he's still giving back to the game he played with such distinction.

It might be a million miles from the All Blacks at Thomond Park, but the kids that took part in yesterday's Under-14 Blitz in Tipperary Town will bring their own memories of the day with them. And if any of the youngsters needed to know how to stop their opposite number, Dennison was on the sideline to offer a little advice on something he knows a thing or two about. Just ask Stu Wilson.