Fans could taste victory . . . before it slipped from their grasp
AGONY: Schmidt admits 'I didn't sleep well' after last minute All Blacks defeat
IRISH rugby fans could taste victory in the Aviva Stadium, but in the dying seconds, everything was lost and victory slipped from our grasp.
Jonny Sexton's missed penalty, referee Nigel Owens dubious call, a questionable conversion and it was gone.
Manager Joe Schmidt admitted this morning he didn't sleep well overnight following the loss.
"I never do when things don't go well," he told RTE. "The supporters had a great ride for 80-and-a-half minutes, but when 81 minutes ticked over, it fell over. The players are disappointed.
"With 30 seconds to go, we still had our destiny in our own hands. Sometimes you have got to react and respond and we didn't do that."
The coach insisted out-half Sexton was the right man to take the missed penalty, which may have won the game.
"He struck it well," he said. "I'd leave it in his hands to deem whether or not he was fit to take it. I have a lot of trust in Johnny."
Forward Sean O'Brien, who won the man of the match award, told Today FM that he was not looking forward to watching a replay of the game. "It is not going to be nice watching some of the stuff we didn't do so well," he said. "It is (now) about moving on and having a bit of confidence."
Outside Lansdowne Road, fans could not believe what happened.
"I'm so disgusted I could throw up," said Kieron O'Neill (28), from Clondalkin. "We were so close – it was there."
Brian O'Donnell (28), from Blackrock, added: "We had the win in our hands – that's what makes it so disappointing. We're gutted."
Rebecca Ryan (18), from Leopardstown, blamed the referee for ruling that a crucial All Black pass was not a forward one. "There's no way they should have got away with that pass," she said.
And Anna Louise Hawke (31), from Galway, added: "I was practically crying at the end. It was devastating."
Hannah Reynolds (26), from Terenure, said she was "heartbroken" when the final whistle went. "I thought we had it in the bag. I feel they robbed us," she added.
While fans were disappointed with the result, most agreed the squad had given it their all on the pitch.
"They played out of their skins," said Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin. "It was a courageous game."
Supporters agreed the team, including Brian O'Driscoll (inset), put in a better performance than against Australia.
"The coach definitely redeemed himself after a slow start," said Andrew Killeen, from Rathfarnham. "It was a tense game to watch."
Andrew had brought his son Adam (11) to the big match. "It was his first Irish international," he said. "It's disappointing that we didn't come away with a different result."
Darren Shiels, from Lucan, told the Herald: "It was a vast improvement. It was an outstanding performance. To get to half-time and be up against the All Blacks is a colossal achievement."
"They played their hearts out," said Tom Coulton, from Celbridge.
"That's what makes it so disappointing."