'I just couldn't believe he came out with the ball': O'Mahony try-saver made all the difference

New Zealand were within an inch of taking a massive chunk out of Ireland’s lead.

Sean Farrell reports from the Aviva Stadium

“THE ALL BLACKS are the team that can put the most points on you in the shortest space of time,” warned Joe Schmidt on Thursday.

Nobody on Lansdowne Road was getting too giddy with a three or even a 10-point cushion. This is the same New Zealand outfit who trailed the rejuvenated Springboks by 17 points with 20 to go in Pretoria, by 12 points with five to go. And still, somehow, they managed to find a way to score tries and win.

Watching black jerseys suddenly begin to move a little sharper, a little more purposefully in the wake of Jacob Stockdale’s magnificent try last night it was difficult to avoid thinking there was another comeback on the way.

They had done it on this ground before, after all.

In 2013, Aaron Cruden grubbered brilliantly to find left wing Julian Savea to score a try and land a hammer blow to the hosts. It was almost a mirror image just after the hour mark on Saturday night. Beauden Barrett in the 10 shirt peeled off towards the right flank and his kick through the line looked inch perfect.

Brodie Retallick and Peter O’Mahony gave chase, but Jacob Stockdale and Ben Smith were eating up the ground fast and it seemed a straight race between them for the bouncing ball.

“Peter O’Mahony coming back,”said Luke McGrath post-match, in no doubt as to the pivotal moment during his time on the field.

Peter O'Mahony celebrates winning A deserved man of the match award for the Munster skipper. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“That was absolutely unbelievable. I thought his hamstring nearly went when he was running back.”

The Corkman did succumb to injury soon after, but by the time he turned, dug deep and thrust two safe hands onto the precariously-positioned, he had already been struggling around the Aviva Stadium pitch for over 10 minutes.

A knock early in the second half, left him crumpled on the turf and O’Mahony looked very uncomfortable when first making his way back to the defensive line. Yet he remained in that line and shuffled from position to position, filling holes and hitting rucks until he was called on for a try-saving snaffle of the ball that Smith was eyeing up as a certain try.

“I was a bit far away,” adds McGrath, “I just couldn’t believe he came out with the ball. I’ll have to look at it again. 

“The determination he has, you see it in training, he led the team all week. He leads by example every single time I’m absolutely over the moon to see him come away (with the ball).”

When you review the game we’ll look back and say they were big moments int he game. We won those today.”

With Conor Murray watching from the stands, the Leinster scrum-half was tasked with closing out the win for Ireland. It’s far from his perceived strength of injecting pace and tempo into a contest.

The clash between the world’s number one and two was already pacy and frenetic enough. And as for the volume in the ground in the dying minutes, as the crowd sensed a first ever win over New Zealand on home soil.

“Unbelievable,” McGrath says with a shake of the head.

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Luke McGrath kicks the ball forward McGrath kicks Ireland into Kiwi territory late on. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“You can’t hear two feet from you, you have to scream at each other. It’s nice knowing you have that seven-point lead, but that crowd lifts you, makes you want to get up off the ground quicker and put in bigger tackles. they definitely pulled us through.

“It’s a case of trusting your defence. With two minutes to go we were in the thought process of: ‘do we hold onto the ball around halfway?’

“It’s tough at the moment, referees do sometimes look for penalties if you’re sloppy at the breakdown or sealing off.” 

Ireland didn’t dare give their guests a sniff.

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Sean Farrell

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