Ireland 16 New Zealand 9
You can not blame Joe Schmidt for trying to hide expectations after this epic first home win over the All Blacks, but you pity the futility of the exercise.
It was only 24 months ago that Ireland removed the last unwanted record of direct clashes in their test-game history by defeating New Zealand 111 years after their first meeting. Now Schmidt has seen his team not only win the consecutive world champions again but do so in a way that suggests that this is the shape of things to come.
With a World Cup reaching only 10 months in Japan, Ireland has submitted a statement of intent that, having completed the Six Nations Grand Slam this year, they now have the talent, character and intelligence to consistently compete with the best in the Southern Hemisphere . can shoot them and that Chicago 2016, when they broke his whole black duck, there was flash in the pan.
Although understandably this does not serve Schmidt better than his opposite, Steve Hansen's statement that Ireland is now the best team in the world and favorite to succeed them as champions next year, the tests seem to be every time more difficult to answer.
This was their 17th victory in the last 18 matches since the Wales loss at Cardiff on 10 March 2017 and in addition to a Grand Slam guaranteed by victories in Paris and Twickenham, there was also a win in the summer series in Australia. This was the first time since 1979. Ireland often reaches heights only to return to sea level. Never before have they remained at such a high altitude and their recent encounters with the All Blacks are further evidence that this is a side entirely worthy of the ambition that their admirers have for them.
The Ireland coach has faced the country of his birth four times since taking over the position in the summer of 2013. After the superb Saturday night of Steve Hansen's last outing, he now enjoys parity with two wins each and an advantage. differential of four points during these four meetings.
After the anguish of November 2013, when Ireland succumbed to New Zealand's relentless will to win and return to Dublin two years ago, when the All Blacks demanded their brutal revenge for the historic defeat in Chicago two weeks earlier, that was the best of Ireland. performance. It may not have been the nine-try spectacle that shaped Chicago's victory, but this was a game the Irish dominated for long periods and rarely seemed to surrender as they fed the deafening noise and electricity generated by a crowd of 52,000 people.
Jacob Stockdale's wonderful 48-minute attempt, converted by Johnny Sexton, was the highlight, opening a 16-6 lead that left the All Blacks chasing the game for the last half hour. However, there was a lot more to this victory as New Zealand were held for the first time without evidence and singles for the first time since 1998. This is proof of Ireland's defensive prowess, the superiority of play and the precision of the break that the All Blacks trying to force the issue and either coughing up penalties or making mistakes under the stifling intensity of the pressure.
There was also a good measure of last-minute heroism, not least, a try diving to save the man's ball from the game Peter O 'Mahony as Beauden Barrett threw the ball through the line to Ben Smith on time – a certain attempt if it were not for the determination of the Irish flank to intervene.
Well as good fortune. The crash of another Stockdale chip, this time in the backfield and minutes before its attempt, by All Blacks captain Kieran Read may have been caught in the big clutches of number 8 with a clear run on the Irish front. New Zealand's poor discipline and the concession of what Hansen described as "stupid penalties" certainly gave Ireland an edge, as did Brodie Retallick's pass when the clock turned red and the All Blacks appeared to be recovering in 2013.
That's why Schmidt remains vigilant, aware of the thin line that exists at this rarefied level between success and failure, by comparing the 21-9 loss to New Zealand here in 2016 with Saturday's win.
"I do not think there's much difference," he said. "They could almost have scored three times; they did the last time we played. We could almost have scored several times. Sean O'Brien almost managed to squeeze a goal past the visitors' keeper. We had Rob Kearney just dragged away from the line two years ago.
"That's what I mean about good margins. I do not think it's anything to do with number three or number two or number one, it's just to do on the day. If Kieran Read picks up this ball, we might not win. If Peter O'Mahony does not make the save keeper or Rob Kearney does not enter that channel, we may not win.
"This is how the margins are good. So every time you leave, you are very aware that you need to make sure that many of these margins are in your favor, and some days they are, and in a few days, they are not.
"That's why these players work hard to make sure we're as collective as possible so that these margins are good, we do not offer a lot of resources and we maximize and capitalize on the ones we create."
These are the characteristics that have led Ireland to this point and, despite all the hype that your team has generated with this important victory, Schmidt, with those beautiful margins in mind, will aim to keep his players firmly focused on them and the task he has in hands. they advance from one training session to the next and game by game on the march towards the World Cup destination days.
IRELAND: R Kearney (J Larmour, 66); K Earls, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton (J Carbery, 76), K Marmion (L McGrath, 58); C Healy (J McGrath, 51), R Best-Captain (S Cronin, 64), T Furlong (A Porter, 64); D Toner (I Henderson, 61), J Ryan; P O'Mahony (J Murphy, 63), J van der Flier and CJ Stander.
NEW ZEALAND: D McKenzie (R Moonega, 56); B Smith, J. Goodhue, R. Crotty (A Lienert-Brown, 61), R Ioane; B Barrett, A Smith (TJ Perenara, 58); K Tu Inukuafe (Ofa Tu & # 39; ungafasi, 47), C Taylor (D Coles, 47), The Franks (N Laulala, 47); B Retallick, S Whitelock; L Squire (S Barrett, 31 years), A Savea (M Todd, 74), K Read – captain.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)