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One Year On: Remembering Ireland’s Heroics In Soldier Field

Illinois , United States - 5 November 2016; Conor Murray of Ireland celebrates victory after the International rugby match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago, USA. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Saturday 5th November 2016.

Ask any Irish sports fan where they were that evening, and they will recall with ease. Ask any Irish person in general where they were, and they could tell you. An historic day for the country.

Hurling and Football are our national games and we excel at them. The skill level in these games have reached new heights over the past few years as the professionalism in an amateur sport has taken over. The local and neighbourhood aspect of the GAA captivates all who are lucky enough to witness it first-hand.

However, as the national soccer team proved a few weeks ago, there are other sports that we as a nation have thrived at. Despite our small population size, rugby is a sport where Ireland are a genuine world force. Ireland are expected to compete and advance in World Cup competitions. Although success at a worldwide level has eluded the team, one of Ireland’s great sporting achievements came courtesy of our rugby team…

Exactly one year ago today.

Ireland travelled to Chicago’s Soldier Field to take on the all-conquering New Zealand side. With 18 wins in a row the All-Blacks were looking to find a record-breaking 19th consecutive win. Ireland in contrast had failed to overcome New Zealand in their 28 previous attempts.

Only a couple of weeks removed from the death of Munster Head Coach Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley in tragic circumstances, the Ireland players arranged themselves in a figure eight for a minute’s silence to pay homage to the wonderful No.8.

Channelling the spirit of the great Munster warrior Ireland put on an electric first half performance to carry a 25-8 lead into the break, with the tries coming courtesy of Jordi Murphy, CJ Stander and a beauty from a sniping Conor Murray.

Early in the second half, Ireland exploited the New Zealand defence once more as Simon Zebo touched down to extend the lead to 22 points. As expected however, New Zealand rallied in the second half and reduced the deficit to 30-22 within 15 minutes of the restart.

Conor Murray nailed a penalty in the absence of Johnny Sexton before Scott Barrett crossed for another New Zealand try to narrow the gap to four points. However, this time it would be Ireland that rallied and with four minutes remaining Robbie Henshaw capped off a magnificent performance with a try to put the tie to bed and create history.

40-29.

111 years of hurt and defeat put to rest. From 1-21, the Irish team were exceptional. A brilliant day for Irish Rugby and one we will be happy to remember for years to come.

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About Jack Neville

21 year old sports enthusiast from Limerick. 3rd year English and Psychology student in the University of Limerick. Sportswriter with Sporting Limerick. Passionate about a number of sports with GAA the prevailing interest. Keen observer of Soccer, Rugby and American sports, especially Basketball. Play football, hurling and soccer for my local clubs in West Limerick. Heavily interested in pursuing a career in sports journalism. Also a lover of music.

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