OPINION: Ireland went into to anaerobic shock yesterday.
It was as if Irish supporters, having realised it was at last time to roar to the rest of the world the news of their first international victory over the All Blacks, found that they just couldn't fill their lungs.
Because the world champions had already inhaled every molecule of oxygen in Aviva Stadium for their own last-gasp effort.
And when the exultant roar did issue, it was the other side of the world. Our side.
The All Blacks' defeat of an impassioned Ireland was a game that deserves a proud place not just in footy histories, but in folklore.
The folklore of both countries, we might add.
Aching Irish hearts were entitled to be beating proudly. It will be scant consolation, but they had earned the right to feel that bad. The exquisite pitilessness of sport dictates that only a team that plays with this scale of heroism is entitled to feel quite as bad at having been denied at the last.
To have a game of such intensity swing on a missed Irish penalty, then a seemingly superhuman passage of unbroken play climaxing in a try and retaken conversion, made for magnificent drama.
The Irish will see it as history denied, whereas New Zealanders can claim history created, with 14 consecutive test wins to deliver the world's first unbeaten season in the professional rugby era.
It has been an exhausting season for the All Blacks and for starters this finale had all the "game too far" hallmarks of last year's season-ending loss to England.
The All Blacks started off looking flat, if not entirely flattened, by a torrid first 20 minutes as the inspired Irish tore themselves a three-try 19-0 lead.
Though there was nothing inevitable about the All Blacks' comeback, the single most satisfying thing to be said about their win was that it was in character.
To judge from their comments, the team and management prefer their victories to be clinical, unflawed and inexorably achieved. This win was none of that.
It was merely thrilling, brave and in places inspired.
And it left supporters, as well as opponents worldwide, shaking their heads for neither the first nor last time at the depth of self-belief and passion that this team is able to access.
No less wonderfully, this was an outcome with a strong sense of deja vu, coming as it did after a titanic Kiwi fightback in the Rugby League World Cup semifinals against England.
In both codes we have brilliant individual playmakers backed up, and challenged, by a formidable store of younger players stepping up to impress at almost every chance.
And, like All Blacks, the Kiwis seem to have proven themselves to themselves, as much as to the onlooking world.
Their biggest test is still to come, and the way they are playing the Kiwis deserve to have rugby as well as league fans showing their support.
- The Southland Times
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