They were buried, relegated to regular sides and deemed incapable of knocking out Ireland who cruised straight into the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history. They were said to be outdated, crumbling and deprived of their ruthless attacking game.
However: The All Blacks, beating XV du Trèfle (28-24) at the end of one of the most memorable matches in the history of the competition, on Saturday 14 October at the Stade de France, showed that this black-clad team will never die.
In the days and weeks leading up to this encounter, we had the impression that history had already been written: Ireland, the world’s leading nation with seventeen wins in a row, confident of their rugby qualities and abilities, would overtake New Zealand thanks to their oiled, relentless game. Which has been practiced thousands of times. It was the culmination of sporting logic and a declared triumph for the Northern Hemisphere, and almost a passing of the baton between two of the most dominant teams of the past 15 years. Before the match, as a warning sign of this foregone conclusion, the deafening Irish chants coming from the stands of the Stade de France rendered the traditional New Zealand Haka inaudible.
Until the final minutes of the game, this story could still be written. The Irish had the ball under their arms and trailed by just four points. To qualify for the semi-finals, all they had to do was reach the New Zealand line, more than sixty meters away, and score a try.
At 77H In the first minute, the Clover For more than five minutes and a stratospheric count of thirty-seven stages of play, the green waves pushed the black line back meter by meter.
Winning after an amazing series
During these five minutes, the two teams clashed in a battle that will be cited as an example for many years to come. It was as if the oxygen had deserted the Stade de France. There is no doubt that the 78,000 spectators felt that the fate of the match was hanging by a thin thread: a trembling hand, an unstable pass, a very strong tackle.
During more than 300 seconds of intense attacks and desperate defence, neither team gave up or made a mistake. Until New Zealander Sam Whitlock, his eye sharpened by his 151 picks, threw his big hands at the heart of another walk to win the ball back, crushing the Irish dream once and for all and sending his side into the semi-finals, Friday 20 October in the same Stade de France.
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