Ireland's Simon Zebo (second from right) celebrates with Johnny Sexton (right) after scoring against New Zealand during the second half in Chicago.
Ireland's Simon Zebo (second from right) celebrates with Johnny Sexton (right) after scoring against New Zealand during the second half in Chicago. Kamil Krzaczynski

Ireland stuns All Blacks in Chicago

THEY blew it once and it hurt them. Now Ireland has finally made history and beaten the All Blacks. It has taken them 111 years to do it. They have come so close before - most notably the last time they played.

But now they can say they have done it, they have beaten the All Blacks, and oh how they deserved it.

They played their hearts out for 80 minutes this time. Not 79. And this time they didn't feel the weight of history and buckle. They continued to play rugby all the way to the hooter and they won 40-29.

They won in what has now become a ridiculous year of unfancied champions. There was Leicester in the English Premier League. Then the Cubs ended 108 years of pain earlier in the week and everyone wondered whether one more crazy story could be written.

Could Ireland be the next to make history? Could they do it? Most sane folk said no. The All Blacks were unbeatable. Romantics everywhere hoped otherwise, but knew deep down they were asking too much.

But the sporting gods obviously have a taste for this kind of feelgood story and they smiled upon Ireland.

The All Blacks helped them no end, too. Feeling the pressure for most of the game, they only had a 15-minute spell when they played like they can. Their skills wilted for the first time in 19 Tests.

They dropped balls. They missed tackles, they were indecisive and, ultimately, they didn't have the escape-from-jail card they had in 2013. And to be fair to the men in green - and the entire nation of Ireland - that was no bad thing. Ireland was the better side. Ireland played more of the rugby and Ireland, maybe, wanted it more.

It was unbelievably similar to the game in 2013. Ireland posed all the same questions and New Zealand, again, had none of the answers.

Ireland hit hard and fast when they had the ball, working the narrow side and finding acres of space around the ruck.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had said before the game that Ireland would have done their analysis, studied everything about the All Blacks so far this year and seen things to exploit.

He probably didn't imagine that they would have seen as much as they did. Ireland ran riot in the first 40 minutes. They owned the ball, they owned the lineout, they held the scrum and they tackled on the gainline.

The All Blacks couldn't get anything going and would have been more disappointed than surprised at how much they missed Sam Whtitelock and Brodie Retallick.

It wasn't just the catastrophic lineout that highlighted the missing twin towers, it was the intangible sense that New Zealand were being bullied. Twice Jerome Kaino, such a force with a No.6 on his back, was held up by Irish defenders and forced to concede a scrum.

Twice Ben Smith was beaten in the air at the kickoff - allowing Ireland to begin its attacks from deep inside territory.

These incidents weren't pivotal, they were more indicative of the troubles the All Blacks were having getting into the game physically and as the pattern of Ireland scoring and All Blacks faltering continued, the more it felt like Ireland was going to make amends for 2013.

That they had worked out that the way to beat the All Blacks is to smash them hard early and never stop. But it's not that easy.

The All Blacks were never going to come to Chicago and not fire a shot. The black wave was always going to come, it was just a case of how hard, how long and how well Ireland would be able to deal with it.

The answer to that was better than they ever have at any time in the last 111 years.