WELLINGTON • Rather than mourn the end of the All Blacks' world-record winning rugby run, New Zealanders yesterday backed coach Steve Hansen's analysis that Ireland deserved their historic 40-29 victory in Chicago on Saturday.
"The right side won... we're not going to make any excuses," Hansen declared as the New Zealand news media as well as callers to talk radio voiced agreement.
Trumpeted the New Zealand Herald: "Magnificent men in green: Ireland make history."
Fairfax New Zealand said on its website: "Sweet sporting history made." The media organisation highlighted that it was Ireland's first win over New Zealand after 29 Tests in 111 years - and it came just days after the Chicago Cubs landed their first World Series baseball crown in 108 years.
In New Zealand, where rugby is almost a religion, Test losses usually cause national mourning and the more surprising the loss, the bigger the hurt.
111 Ireland's victory over New Zealand was their first in 111 years, ending the All Blacks' record of 18 wins in a row.
But, with nearly one in five New Zealanders also claiming Irish ancestry, this time the usual despondency was replaced by a feeling that if any team deserved to beat the All Blacks, it was Ireland.
The loss put a full stop on the All Blacks' winning streak at 18, one more than the previous record which New Zealand shared with South Africa.
"It's our friends the Irish who broke the record. We kind of feel OK about it," Radio Sport host Tony Veitch said. "In terms of rugby itself this is a brilliant result."
Jim Kayes, in an editorial for MediaWorks' Newshub, said it was right to celebrate Ireland's victory.
"Sometimes there is no disgrace in losing. And sometimes it is more important to celebrate success, even if it's the other team that's won," he said.
Roared on by an army of green-clad fans in a 62,300 crowd at Soldier Field, the Irish outscored the All Blacks by five tries to four.
"It has been a long time coming and history (has been) made. We're absolutely ecstatic," Ireland skipper Rory Best said after leading his team on a raucous lap of honour at the famed NFL venue.
"We knew they are a great side. You can see how good a side they are and how much it means to our boys to have won that."
Ireland were forced to cling on in the closing stages after a ferocious New Zealand fightback, which saw the All Blacks recover from a 30-8 deficit to go within four points at 33-29 with around 15 minutes to go.
But, with the crowd roaring them home, Ireland scored a fifth and final try through outstanding centre Robbie Henshaw, which was converted by replacement fly-half Joey Carbery, to clinch a famous victory.
It was New Zealand's first defeat since their loss to Australia in August last year.
Only last month, the All Blacks had set a world record for consecutive victories with their 18th win in a row.