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The day Ireland stunned New Zealand - My 2014 sporting highlight

Steven O’Rourke looks back on his favourite sporting memory from 2014.

Niamh Briggs reflects the mood of the nation after the game.
Niamh Briggs reflects the mood of the nation after the game.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

I’M NOT SURE how it could be anything else to be honest.

The sheer scale of Ireland’s achievement, beating the winners of the previous four World Cups, cannot be underestimated but it was the nature of their win over New Zealand that made it my sporting moment of 2014.

Gutsy, yes, but at all times controlled. If you were new to the game of rugby you’d have struggled to identify which team had dominated the women’s international game for 16 years, losing just once in World Cup history before this August.

Dominating the breakdown throughout, Ireland should have been awarded at least one penalty try before falling 8-0 behind to some good counter-attacking.

However, rather than signalling the opening of the floodgates, it merely served to give the Black Ferns a scarcely deserved head start before Heather O’Brien reduced the gap to just one at the break with a clinical try.

The start of the second half saw Ireland produce one of the great defensive displays as they fought off wave after wave of New Zealand attacks. And, after absorbing everything the the world champions could throw at them, Ireland cut loose with Niamh Briggs sending a nation into raptures, throwing two defenders with one step before feeding Alison Miller whose blistering pace allowed her touch down in the corner.

Alison Miller scores a try 5/8/2014 Alison Miller scores her try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Briggs’ penalty 10 minutes from time would ultimately seal the famous win for Ireland but it was the nature of the final minutes of the game – all of which was played in New Zealand territory and most of it with the ball in the hands of someone in a green jersey – that will live long in the memory.

While their World Cup campaign would ultimately end in disappointment, the Irish women’s rugby team achieved something their male counterparts are yet to do in beating New Zealand.

What it does for women’s rugby and women’s sport in general remains to be seen but my gut feeling is that it will prove to be a watershed moment for both. For that alone, it is a moment worth celebrating again.

Source: World Rugby/YouTube

Originally published at 17.00

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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