Rob Kearney – 8
Couldn’t have dreamed for a gift like he received from Israel Dagg before racing in for his first-half try, but showed his pace to finish the chance.
Perhaps his most important moment was late in the half chasing Dagg’s kick. Then he did superbly well to watch the bounce take hold of the pill and turn through on-coming tacklers to buy time take a little more wind out of the All Black sails.
Tommy Bowe – 6
Failed to keep tabs on Savea’s brilliant run for the try, but made up for that with a velcro-like intercept in the third quarter. A relatively quiet afternoon by his standards, but enough of an assured presence to retain his place as number one winger.
Brian O’Driscoll – 7
A stray pass put Dave Kearney in trouble in his own 22, but played like a man taking on the biggest challenge in the game for the last time. Led the charge and ensured the backline never lost its shape before he as forced off after 53 minutes after a typically selfless tackle on Brodie Retallick…One more year?
Gordon D’Arcy – 8
A controversial selection, but from early on he showed the superb footwork in possession that makes him a valuable ball carrier. Led a crucial defensive period to take Ireland off their own line.
Dave Kearney – 8
A full debut and a full performance to match. The younger Kearney set the tone with an early chase into the All Black 22 which forced a knock-on. Less emphatic in the second half, but equally effective when taking down Richie McCaw which forced a turnover.
Jonathan Sexton - 8
Turns out the hamstring never strained, he just felt like it was about to go. Gives Ireland that extra dimension in attack, seemed to pick the right pass every time in that first half, varying the line of his chosen ball-carrier to keep the tourists guessing. Missed kick in final quarter meant Ireland were left to hang on in a game he made winnable
Conor Murray – 8
Precious little possession to work with in the second half, but along with Sexton made for the thrilling opening period with instant recycling and constantly varying the attack. One or two kicks were questionable, but seemed to be handed the role of game management when Sexton went off and he performed that role very, very well.
Cian Healy – 9
He hates the haka, and now those in the haka must hate him right back. An enormous effort in the loose, absolutely blasted Richie McCaw when the flanker made the mistake of going a tad high. Showed his 69th minute replacement Jack McGrath how high the bar has been set.
Rory Best – 6
Backed himself brilliant to claim the game’s second try. Unfortunately day was cut short by an off the ball hit.
Mike Ross – 8
Asked to carry the ball about 100% more than he usually does for Ireland, but along with Healy made the scrum a solid platform that scarcely seemed believable eight days ago.
Devin Toner – 7
We’ve never seen Devin Toner play with this much intent. Every inch of his massive frame was hurled at black shirts, his elongated reach used several times to take passes delivered behind him and made one superb hit on Nonu to force a first half scrum on Ireland’s five metre line.
Paul O’Connell – 9
Unfortunately the phrase captain, leader, legend has already been taken up by a less-deserving sportsman. But O’Connell embodied everything that is required to beat the world champions. Literally led the charge with some big carries which immediately set the tone and put New Zealand on the back foot.
Peter O’Mahony – 7
A ferocious display of tackling as ever. Bounced back from last weekend in a big way, and showed he’s more than capable of competing with the likes of Read and McCaw.
Sean O’Brien – 9
The whole pack seemed to pick up the pace of their carry when McCaw was in the line of fire, but it was O’Brien who was tasked with going head to head in the tight areas and he held his own for long stretches. His huge offload in the lead-up to the opening try is one that will be on the show-reel for years to come.
Jamie Heaslip – 7
Tireless workrate and offered himself for more carries than against the Wallabies. One of the most willing when it came to the kick chase and earned Ireland some time with a turnover on halfway which should have led to Sexton giving Ireland an eight point lead.
Sean Cronin – 7
An early replacement for the injured Best. Gave an extra touch of pace to our front row especially in the loose where he could be seen scampering onto loose balls. Missed a tackle in lead up to Julian Savea try, but otherwise sound.
Luke Fitzgerald - 6
Replaced Brian O’Driscoll after 53 minutes and instantly looked right at home in Ireland’s biggest shoes. If he can stay fit, there will be competition for that jersey in February.
Kevin McLaughlin - 5
Replaced Peter O’Mahony shortly before the hour mark and was part of a brilliant spell of resistance which brought the home side agonisingly close to a famous win.
Declan Fitzpatrick – 5
Did all that was asked of him in the scrum, but not given much opportunity to excel as the World Champions piled on the pressure
Mike McCarthy – 4
Didn’t put a foot wrong in a difficult situation, but will find it hard to dislodge his provincial teammate as O’Connell’s partner in the second row.
Jack McGrath, Ian Madigan. Not on long enough to be rated.