Having had the wind blown out of their sails by Ireland in Chicago, New Zealand’s near seven-year reign at the top of the World Rugby Rankings is not looking quite so secure.
The All Blacks conceded 40 points for only the fifth time in history as the inspired Irish recorded their first-ever win over the All Blacks in 111 years of trying.
In what was a superb advert for the game, Ireland blazed into a 25-8 half-time lead following tries for Jordi Murphy, CJ Stander and Conor Murray, before the All Blacks threatened to pull off one of their infamous second-half comebacks.
Tries from TJ Perenara, Ben Smith and debutant Scott Barrett brought the world champions to within four points but Robbie Henshaw's late try ensured there was to be no repeat of Ireland's near-miss against the All Blacks in 2013.
Steve Hansen’s side are now just a fraction over five points clear of nearest rivals England following the loss of two full rating points.
A gain of two rating points has lifted Ireland up one place to fifth place, on 83.67 points, while Argentina climb three to sixth after their convincing 54-20 win over an experimental Japanese side. Nicolas Sanchez marked his return to the No.10 jersey in style with a personal haul of 29 points, which included two tries.
Ireland and Argentina move above Wales who are now down to seventh following their dispiriting 32-8 defeat at the hands of Australia. Australia, in third, have increased their lead over South Africa in fourth to a fraction over two points.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Netherlands recorded their biggest win for seven years to begin their RWC 2019 qualification campaign in style. The Dutch ran in seven tries to beat Ukraine 54-12, a result which moves them up five places in the rankings to 30th.
Ukraine started the match in Lviv ranked seven places higher than their opponents in 28th, but the Dutch were in control from first whistle to last, scoring their first try through centre David Weersma with only two minutes on the clock.
Full-back Liam McBride converted the try and kicked a penalty before Weersma’s midfield partner Josh Gascoigne added a second try, which was again converted. Two penalties from Weersma saw the Dutch go in at half-time with a commanding 23-0 lead.
Dirk Danen scored within three minutes of the re-start and he was quickly followed over the whitewash by winger Sep Visser, brother of Scotland international Tim, as the Dutch started the second half with real intent. Second-row Rob Verbakel also got in on the act before Ukraine finally found a response through his opposite number, Roman Kulakivskiy.
Visser and Gascoigne each scored a second try but Ukraine closed out the match when flanker Valentyn Lytvynenko grabbed a late consolation.
The victory was worth 2.45 rating points to the Dutch, who leapfrog Ukraine in the rankings. Ukraine are now 33rd with Korea and Portugal profiting from their defeat with a one-place rise.
SWEDEN WIN AT LAST
It may not be a patch on Ireland’s achievement in ending an 111-year wait for a win over the All Blacks but the smiles were back on the faces of Sweden’s rugby players at the weekend after they brought a 16-game losing run to a close with a 19-0 win away to Luxembourg in the Rugby Europe Conference 1 North.
All of Sweden’s points came in the first half thanks to tries from James Darbyshire, Henning Ekstrand and Fredrik Enstad, with centre Neill Erasmus adding two conversions.
With nearly two full rating points added to their total, Sweden move up three places in the rankings to 57th, overtaking the Philippines, Singapore and the Cayman Islands in the process. Luxembourg drop two to 63rd.
Also in Conference 1 North, Donatas Vilimavicius’ 73rd minute try separated Lithuania from Latvia in a game every bit as tight as the rankings suggested it would be. Lithuania started the day two places higher in 48th but are now seven better off having climbed to 44th with Latvia slipping one place to 51st. Consequently, the Ivory Coast break into the wold’s top 50.
Israel began their Conference 1 South season with a 23-16 win against Croatia in front of a 1,700-strong crowd in Netanya. The home side raced into a 22-6 half-time lead but a stirring second-half performance from Croatia produced a tense finish. Israel are now ranked one place higher in 61st, while Croatia fall five places to 56th in defeat.
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