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'I thought the 1st kick was going over': Cruden looks back on 2013 match-winning conversion

The playmaker admits the Irish charge on his crucial penalty was not to blame for the initial miss.

SOME GHOSTS ARE tougher to exorcise than others.

So while Ireland did indeed pry a monkey off their backs by finally beating New Zealand in a senior international Test a fortnight ago, some residual pain from the 2013 loss in Dublin remains for many of us.

Having allowed Ryan Crotty to sneak into the corner for a last-gasp levelling try, Ireland appeared to have been let off with the consolation prize of a second ever draw with the All Blacks. Aaron Cruden had erred, pulling his touchline conversion slightly wide… until referee Nigel Owens whistled and respotted the conversion attempt.

“I don’t think so no,” Aaron Cruden said yesterday when asked if he had been aware of the desperate green burst for a block.

Aaron Cruden misses his first kick to win the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

 

He was in the zone and didn’t know the kick would be called back until he had already struck the ball. It was a good hit in his mind, clean and on target until the elements got a hold of it.

“When I hit the kick and I looked up, it was actually going down the middle of the post. And then, for whatever reason sometimes things just don’t go the way you want them to,  the ball drifted to the right.”

A “bit of noise” from Owens and suddenly Cruden was being offered a second swing at completing The Great Escape. A little practice had lifted all the weight off the Chiefs playmaker.

“I was probably more nervous with the first kick than the second, if I’m honest.

“When I hit the first kick and looked up I thought it was going over, then all of a sudden it started moving out to the right of the post…

“I saw the referee giving me a second chance, saying the Irish had charged early, and then I was pretty confident in my ability and trusting in my routine.

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“I was pretty sure the next one was going to go over and I suppose all the New Zealand fans were happy about it. But you could certainly see the heartbreak on the Irish faces that were there in the crowd.”

New Zealand players celebrate Aaron Cruden's winning kick Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Back then, Cruden was standing in for Dan Carter in the number 10 shirt and was every inch the heir apparent. However, the 27-year-old now finds himself waiting in the wings once more with Beauden Barrett working wonders of running rugby in the number 10 shirt – even if his kicking stats leave plenty of room for improvement.

Like most All Blacks, there isn’t a great deal of positive happy memories to be taken from Chicago. Indeed, Cruden’s moment on the highlight reel was mainly as a hurdle for Simon Zebo to leap across on his way to an absolutely outstanding second half catch.

Dan Carter speaks with Aaron Cruden after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Until then, the Palmerstown North man had nothing but fond memories of facing the green jersey. High amongst them is his debut in 2010 when Carter departed the field in New Plymouth with seven conversions to his name as the All Blacks made hay after Jamie Heaslip’s red card and were on the way to a 66 – 28 victory.

“They’re always tough matches and ones that I look forward to. It’s always a little bit special to me as well, I made my debut against Ireland. I remember that day, it was my first Test and Johnny Sexton (another replacement on the day) actually gave me his jersey to go along with my first All Blacks one. Yeah, really fond memories and always tough matches.

unnamed (8) Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

“As a player that’s what you want. You want to be testing yourself against the best and the Irish team at the moment is right up there. They’re in control of their game and really know how they want to play the game. I know the All Blacks boys are looking forward to the Test match tomorrow night and can’t wait to get out there.”

Aaron Cruden was speaking at Sheriff YC Community College, where 80 kids from inner city Dublin were coached and had the opportunity to be part of an inspirational talk with members of the All Blacks team as well as members of the Dublin GAA teams.

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