DUBLIN -- Try telling those in the Aviva Stadium, those filling the bars in Dublin and those having sweated and bled through their green shirts that these November internationals mean nothing. And while we're at it, name a better defence coach in world rugby than Andy Farrell, after his sizeable role in a thrilling Ireland victory over New Zealand, their first ever on home soil.
But above all that, and the long-term significance, what this result did was suddenly remove any fear factor around the All Blacks for Ireland. After their 2016 win in Chicago -- their first ever, anywhere, against the All Blacks -- the Kiwis stormed back in their next meeting to reclaim bragging rights. But with this 16-9 victory under their Irish belts, the next time the teams meet will likely be in Japan at next year's World Cup. Ireland, if they continue this run of form and continue riding this wave, will go there with no sense of awe, but instead the rarest of rugby confidence.
This was a heroic victory for Ireland, the sort that shifts the rugby world on its head. It was a result where suddenly next year's Rugby World Cup seems less of a forgone conclusion, and now deliciously poised and open. "As of now, Ireland are No.1 in the world," declared Steve Hansen, the New Zealand coach, after the match. Whether this is kidology or not is immaterial, because this is now a genuine debate.
At a time where things are a little uneasy in this part of the world thanks to the complexities of Brexit and what it means for the Republic of Ireland-Northern Ireland border, there was a beautiful, comforting simplicity to Ireland's huge victory. It was one underpinned by aggression, organisation and incredible focus. People talk of culture, and this is key to any side as good as Ireland, but there's also downright brilliant coaching and individual genius. Add that all together and you have a team who can win next year's World Cup and who, on a cool autumnal evening, toppled the All Blacks.
Peter O'Mahony was Man of the Match, and rightly so. But had it been given to Josh van der Flier or CJ Stander or Johnny Sexton or Jacob Stockdale... or... or... or... then you could have argued their case. And that's why Ireland won. The match-winning try was blinding individual skill from Stockdale, but while that gave Ireland the seven-point advantage, the victory was really secured in the final 10 or so minutes of this match. Had Ireland only had a one-point lead, they'd have still won.
And that's because of their world-leading defence. It's got aggression at its core, with linespeed and essentially, to put it bluntly, getting in the opposition's grills. The players are encouraged to hit through their opposition, smash them into the middle of next week. And this is down to Farrell, the man deemed surplus to requirements by the RFU after England's demise at the 2015 World Cup and gladly snapped up by Ireland. What a piece of business.
"It was a heavyweight contest," said Schmidt afterwards. "It is so seldom the All Blacks don't score a try, Andy Farrell is delighted." And then there's this: the last time New Zealand didn't score a try in a match was during the British and Irish Lions tour of last year. The Lions' defence coach? Yep, Andy Farrell.
Here, there were game-swinging moments, and O'Mahony was at the centre of those. As the All Blacks probed Ireland's defence and found they couldn't batter through it, they tried kicking in between green shirts, creating half-chances. The best was at the end of the third quarter as Beauden Barrett nudged through, only for O'Mahony to get ahead of Ben Smith. Two minutes later he drew a key Ireland penalty and halted promising All Blacks momentum in its tracks. He was then replaced, utterly exhausted. The Aviva Stadium rose as one, applauding the man who is so remarkably quietly spoken that if you closed your eyes, you'd think he was a shy, retiring type, in a permanent library-based existence.
Van der Flier -- the late replacement in the starting XV for injured Dan Leavy -- was exceptional, tackling like a mad man and carrying with omnipresent vigour. While he ended with 16 tackles to his name, James Ryan managed three more -- another heroic showing, amid 22 others. And then there was Tadhg Furlong, and CJ Stander, who took not one single step backwards. Throughout the backs, Rob Kearney carried out Farrell's prized sweeper role -- the man standing behind the attacking defensive line -- faultlessly.
The atmosphere in Dublin was similar to the Lions series against the All Blacks in the summer of 2017, both in decibels and unwavering fervour. Whenever Ireland set up stall for a rolling maul, or engaged at the scrum, this wave of noise grew from the stands, crashing over the shallow North Stand end of the ground and engulfing the place. It was the sort you could feel, pulsating through your chest. And these were for scrums, lineouts -- rudimentary parts of the game, let alone tries or runs from the 22.
All the while, referee Wayne Barnes did a superb job of officiating the context. He will face questions over why he did not sin-bin the All Blacks in the final throes of the first half as they racked up penalty after penalty. And Kearney should have seen yellow for a challenge on Rieko Ioane in the second half, but Barnes kept the game's engine ticking with concise communication throughout. If England fail to reach the World Cup final next year -- on this evidence they are in the All Blacks and Ireland's wake - then Englishman Barnes deserves the honour as the man in the middle.
While Dublin will celebrate late into the night, and rightly so, the All Blacks will wonder why they never really got cracking. There were times when they found that extra gear we know so well. It's the one which wins matches in the blink of an eye, shattering the opposition's hopes and dreams, just as they thought they might be on the verge of knocking over the world's best team. But as they found the extra impetus, Ireland responded in kind.
New Zealand badly missed Sam Cane in the back-row, while their go-to plan of trying to put Damian McKenzie in space and letting him dart through failed. Barrett, still the world's finest fly-half, tried to go over, under and straight through the Irish defence but found obstacles however and wherever he tried.
But this is not a sign of the All Blacks faltering, or stalling. No, far from it. This was them simply being beaten by the better side.
In the build up to this Test, Steve Hansen spoke about how he saw this being a match-up between the two best sides in the world. It was number one versus two in the rankings, the southern hemisphere champions against the Six Nations grand slam holders. And my goodness it lived up to all the billing, and more. As remarkable as that day in Chicago was to witness, this was Godfather II to the original classic. This was Radiohead's OK Computer to The Bends. This was Farrell at his bloody best. He once talked of taking opponents to a place he labels the 'hurt arena'. Well, whatever that is, it can't have been too different to what we saw here in Dublin.
But the best thing? There's potentially an even bigger match on the horizon. If the rugby Gods have any sway on this brilliantly bizarre sport, then the two teams will meet again on Nov. 2, 2019 in Yokohama at the World Cup final. This was one match, on one day. But for 80 minutes, this was rugby from two hemispheres colliding in one incredible display of accuracy, discipline and 30-plus blokes taking this sport to an intensity seldom seen.