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The day Ireland frustrated New Zealand

Dublin, 20 January 1973

Ireland have never beaten New Zealand on the rugby field but in 1973 they drew and spoilt New Zealand's party.

In 1972-73 the All Blacks toured the UK and Ireland. They played the Four Home Unions, which meant a Grand Slam was possible. They also played France.

It was a tour that set out in high hopes but suffered sad moments.

They beat Wales 19-16 but the next day Keith Murdoch, who scored the winning try, was sent home for an incident in the hotel.

They beat Scotland 14-9 and England 9-0.

There had been debate about whether they would go to Ireland. After all the season before, first Scotland and then Wales had refused to travel to Ireland because the troubles had broken out and so the Five Nations fixtures could not be completed. The cancellations had come after Irerland had won bioth their away matches - against France and England. In contrast to the Scottish and Welsh decisions, France came across in the April to play a "friendly" against Ireland to help the Irish recoup some money lost by the cancellation of the other two.

What France did may well have paved the way for the All Blacks who were scheduled to play four matches in Ireland - against Leinster and Ulster in November 1972 and then against Munster and Ireland in January 1973.

They bat Leinster 17-9 and Ulster - in the heart of troubled Belfast - 19-6, and then went off to England where they lost to North-West Counties. That was not their first defeat on the tour as they had lost 9-3 to Llanelli as Max Boyce still sings about..

Their January return to Ireland was less successful. New Zealand seldom play successive matches on a tour without a victory. But it took a last-minute penalty by Trevor Morris  to earn a 3-all draw with Munster at Musgrave Park in Cork and then it was up to Dublin for the Test that would mean a Grand Slam. Not that it was then spoken of as a Grand Slam. That idea came later.

Stocky Barry McGann, the Irish flyhalf, scored first when he kicked a penalty goal but Sid Going put the All Blacks ahead when he robbed his opposite number John Moloney and scored a try (then worth four points). Joe Karam converted to make it 6-3 to New Zealand, which was the half-time score.

Half way through the second half prop Kent Lambert peeled off a maul and gave to flyhalf Bob Burgess on the blindside. He gave to Grizz Wyllie who burst through Tommy Kiernan's tackle to score. 10-3 it was.

With seven minutes to go McGann goaled his second penalty - 10-6,

With five minutes to go and 50 000 spectators roaring, Moloney broke blind from a maul. He drew Grant Batty and gave to Tom Grace. Grace kicked a long way down the field and chased after the ball. The ball hit ground and rolled and rolled into the New Zealand in-goal. Grace and Burgess raced for the ball. The ball stopped rolling an inch or two from the dead-ball line. Grace dived. Burgess dived. Grace's dive got him to the ball a fraction ahead of Burgess.

McGann had the conversion from touch to win the match, but the kick was just wide - just. About an inch wide, accroding to Willie-John McBride.

And so it came to pass that Ireland drew with New Zealand, and the All Blacks missed out on a Grand Slam.

They then lost, famously, to the Barbarians at Cardiff Arms Park and ended losing to France in Paris.


For Ireland:
Pens: McGann 2

For New Zealand:
Going, Wyllie
Con: Karam


Ireland: Tom Kiernan (captain), Tom Grace, Mike Gibson, Michael Flynn, Arthur McMaster, Barry McGann, John Moloney, Terence Moore, Fergus Slattery, James Davidson, Willie-John McBride, Kevin Mays, Ray McLoughlin, Ken Kennedy, Sean Lynch

New Zealand: Joseph Karam, Grant Batty, Bruce Robertson, Ian Hurst, Bryan Williams, Bob Burgess, Sid Going, Alan Sutherland, Alex Wyllie, Ian Kirkpatrick (captain), Pole Whiting, Hamish Macdonald, Graham Whiting, Tane Norton, Kent Lambert

Referee: Meirion Joseph (Wales)

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