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Rich rewards were hard-earned as 2016 crop lit the way for Ireland against NZ

‘I don’t think the boys in the restaurant were too pleased when we all walked in – especially seeing Andrew Porter!’

THIS IRELAND TEAM’S rise, however stuttering it has appeared over the past 11 months, is built on its ‘firsts’.

Long before they won that first-placed spot in the world rankings, there was a first win away to South Africa.

Then came a first Test series success Down Under.

The whole Joe Schmidt era was built on back-to-back Six Nations Championships – excluding shared titles, that was a feat not managed by Ireland 1949.

Even this nation’s third Grand Slam was completed with a certain swagger in Twickenham that was in contrast to the nerve-jangling 2009 climax in Cardiff (we can’t speak first-hand on the climax in 1948, but the 6-3 scoreline in the decider against Wales says enough). However, it is Ireland’s recent history with New Zealand where the shattered ceilings really give hope of a first World Cup quarter-final victory this weekend.

2018 marked the first win over the All Blacks at home, 2016 was the first senior men’s success. Ireland’s women famously recorded the very first triumph over the Kiwis in 2014. Two years later in Chicago, the senior men broke their duck.

greg-jones-celebrates Greg Jones celebrates the win. Source: Camerasport/Dave Howarth/INPHO

However, the proximity of a landmark Ireland U20 campaign to that trans-Atlantic Test in 2016 continues to feel most prescient. Achieved just over three months before the shock in Chicago, Ireland’s U20s surpassed all expectations by powering past ‘the Baby Blacks’ in the pool phase of that summer’s U20 World Cup in England and on towards the final.

It didn’t take any great foresight to predict great things from the stand-out individuals of Nigel Carolan’s side that summer. James Ryan and Jacob Stockdale were imposing their will on games from their own vantage points, ably assisted by Andrew Porter, Shane Daly, Max Deegan and Cillian Gallagher.

“Sitting on the sideline wasn’t too good,” jokes Conall Boomer, a talented openside who was part of the squad in Manchester and now enjoys the less serious side of competitive rugby in Energia League 1A with Ballynahinch.

“The best (memory) would have been just the buzz about the place the day we beat New Zealand was phenomenal.

“You’re the first men’s team to beat New Zealand and after no one could really believe what (had) happened.

“Wales was a tough first match, but (after that) nobody was saying, ‘aw, crap it’s New Zealand’. Everyone was going, right we’re going to beat them here’.

“Now, conditions, the New Zealand boys might complain about, but we were in a neutral venue. Bill Johnston popped his shoulder and Johnny McPhillips came in. So we were tested as well.”

Tries from Greg Jones, Adam McBurney and Max Deegan ensured Ireland sealed the momentous win in the Manchester rain. And the victory was made to taste all the sweeter as team manager Hendrik Kruger was forced to make good on a pre-match incentive.

“Hendrik said before the match that if we beat New Zealand he’d take us for a steak dinner. I don’t think he really thought it through.

“It was the best steak dinner I’ve had in my life.

“I don’t think the boys in the restaurant were too pleased when we all walked in – especially seeing Andrew Porter!


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andrew-porter Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We had our celebrations that night, but we were quickly brought to earth the next day ‘the show must go on’ kinda thing.”

Georgia were next up for the side who provide three of Ireland’s 23 to face the senior New Zealand side in this weekend’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

But it was the semi-final with Argentina when Boomer felt an acute sense of pressure as the age grade side attempted to break new ground by reaching the U20 final. The pressure was channeled in all the right areas on that occasion and a Stockdale brace paved the way for a 37-7 semi-final success.

Another score or two from the prolific Ulster man would leave Ireland with a strong footing as they reach for yet another ‘first’ this weekend.

Well, it’s finally here. Andy Dunne, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey make a call on Ireland’s World Cup quarter-final with New Zealand.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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