Thursday 23 November 2017

Tadhg a part of history

Key role for Wexford native as Ireland sink All Blacks

Brendan Furlong

Tadhg Furlong takes in the reaction from the crowd after Ireland's historic win over the All Blacks in Soldier Field, Chicago
Tadhg Furlong takes in the reaction from the crowd after Ireland's historic win over the All Blacks in Soldier Field, Chicago

They will be talking about this down Campile way for some time to come, the day one of their favourite sons was part of history in Soldier's Field in Chicago.

Ireland ended a 111-year famine against the New Zealand All Blacks with a 40-29 victory on Saturday.

It brought back memories of that frantic game in Dublin three years ago when Ireland led 22-7 at half-time, but there was to be last-minute heartbreak on that occasion as the All Blacks struck for a converted try.

To a man Ireland were outstanding this time around, with Tadhg Furlong very much to the forefront of every battle taken to the All Blacks who entered the game after an 18-match unbeaten run and as world champions.

There was something of a bizarre opening to proceedings as a sole fiddle player took to playing Ireland's Call, to be followed by the now famous Haka. In memory of Anthony Foley, Ireland formed a figure of eight for Munster's fallen hero who passed away in Paris three weeks ago.

Winning his tenth cap at Senior international level in his preferred position of tight-head prop, Furlong - like several of the Irish match-day squad - was facing into the biggest game of his fledgling career to date.

The 23-year-old was making his first appearance against New Zealand, and in terms of size he matched up quite well as he packed down against the much-vaunted opposing front row.

With Mike Ross now 35, Furlong's selection is clearly with one eye on the next World Cup cycle, and judging on this display he is a player who has a huge future both for Leinster and Ireland. On the evidence of this performance, Furlong confirmed himself as Ireland's number one tight-head for the foreseeable future.

The former New Ross clubman turned in a superb scrummaging performance, while he also worked hard in the loose, getting in some big carries and making tackles around the pitch, covering a huge amount of ground for a prop forward.

He was also effective in defence, getting in around the mauls and breakdowns with some big hits, while his driving play when in possession helped Ireland retain control of the ball.

Ireland with five tries had heroes everywhere, and Furlong was among them before being called ashore after a huge shift in the Chicago cauldron.

Ireland were brilliant at the breakdown, forcing turnovers and penalties as the pack continually drove over the New Zealand eight.

History had weighed heavily against Ireland, but when the Under-21 international team cast aside the challenge of New Zealand last season in their World Cup clash it must have set down a marker.

Fittingly, this fledgling Irish side took the New Zealand challenge on and the response of the players throughout the 80-odd minutes was magnificent.

No doubt every time Furlong took on the New Zealanders in possession, and held firm in the scrum as they drove at the opposition pack, the roof must have lifted in New Ross Rugby Club where the tight-head prop set out on his career.

It's a hugely proud moment for the club to have a former player member such a formidable role in creating history.

It's also a proud day for the player's family and home parish. They have every right to be proud of Tadhg's contribution to this historic occasion.

Joe Schmidt afterwards hailed the team's character. 'I really thought the players did themselves proud.

'To be fair, they did 'Axel' proud and his family and they did their country proud.

'I think the supporters did well as well. The longer the game went on the more they got behind the team.'

Wexford People

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