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Ireland captain Johnny Sexton says their first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand was a “very special day” for his team.
Sexton’s men put together an impressive performance to beat the All Blacks 23-12 under the roof in Dunedin and level the series heading into the final Test.
The fly-half commended his side for their reaction in the second half, where they took the game away from the hosts, who were down to 14 men after a flurry of cards shown by referee Jaco Peyper in the first period.
“Anytime you create a little bit of history, it means a lot,” said Sexton. “It’s a very, very special day for everyone in the country.
“We talk about it a lot, we talk about making people at home feel very proud of us. It’s right at the top of our list.
“I think the effort that we put in last week we didn’t get the rewards. Same effort again this week, it was touch and go at times.
“At half-time I thought, ‘oh my God’, but the reaction in the second half was superb. To score with 14 men, obviously against 14 men, to bounce back like we did was great.
“We stayed in the moment. By no means was it perfect, we feel that we could have played better in parts, but yeah, it’s a very special day.”
Sexton felt it was crucial for his side to stay within themselves when they had the numerical advantage and was proud of how his team managed the situation.
“I was thinking it was like the England game (earlier this year) when they went to down to 14 men and we were playing some really good stuff and weren’t quite taking some chances,” he continued.
“Of course they’re going to have a purple patch, and some of our discipline…that was probably the biggest thing for us. Giving away a couple of cheap penalties at key times, and it was the same when we played England.
“Giving them access and giving them a chance to maul in our 22, and they’re very clinical. They scored a good try before half-time, which kind of swung the game. But like I said, we’re happy with how we regrouped and bounced back in the second half.”
Ireland flanker Josh van der Flier led an impressive defensive effort with 21 tackles of the 173 total for his team with a completion rate of 90%. Sexton was pleased that his side improved their defence in the second Test.
“I think it (the defence) was a big improvement on last week. That was the part of our game last week where we probably felt we let ourselves down,” said Sexton.
“They obviously had some great individual moments as well, but we had a strong look at our defence this week and I thought we responded really well.
“Then the other thing is obviously the turnover ball. At times if you’re playing the way we do, sometimes you make a mistake. It’s the transition into that.
“You saw how dangerous they were towards the end, especially when Will Jordan came on. Sevu Reece as well. They’ve got electric players that can punish at any time.
“The way we transitioned, I thought, was much better tonight and it’ll be important going into Tuesday (against the Māori All Blacks) and next Saturday as well.”
The article Johnny Sexton: Historic win a ‘very special day’ for Ireland appeared first on Planetrugby.com.