WATCH | Revisiting Munster’s 1978 win over the All Blacks

WATCH | Revisiting Munster’s 1978 win over the All Blacks
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40 years ago today, Munster beat the All Blacks at Thomond Park.

The Irish province won the game 12-0, becoming the first Irish team to ever defeat the New Zealanders.

The All Blacks had been in devastating form on their European tour, winning 17 games from 17 before the clash at Thomond Park.

Seamus Dennison set the tone with a bone-crunching tackle in the fifth minute.

“It was the hardest tackle I have ever seen and lifted the whole team,” Dennison’s teammate Moss Keane later remarked. “That was the moment we knew we could win the game.”

Munster scored the only try of the game in the 11th minute.

Tony Ward picked out Jimmy Bowen with a superb cross-field kick, and Bowen ran 70 yards before being stopped just short of the try line. He managed to find Christy Cantillon, however, who powered over the line.

Ward converted, and then scored a fine drop-goal nine minutes later to extend the hosts’ lead to 9-0.

Munster were under relentless pressure for most of the second half, but defended valiantly in front of the 12,000 strong crowd. The All Blacks ended the game with 60% possession, but nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.

“We were lucky to get nil,” All Blacks winger Stu Wilson remarked afterwards.

Donal Canniffe captained Munster, and was exceptional on the day. Tragically, his father suffered a heart attack and subsequently passed away while listening to the game on the radio.

Ward scored another drop goal in the second half to extend the lead to 12-0.

Munster, managed by Tom Kiernan, held on for a famous victory, and the full time whistle heralded incredible celebrations in Thomond Park.

Until the famous victory over New Zealand at Soldier Field in 2016, Munster’s 1978 win was the only defeat inflicted on the All Blacks by an Irish team.

It was a heroic performance from Munster (from players who were playing as amateurs) and an historic victory, and one that won’t be forgotten in Munster any time soon, and one which inspired books, poems, and even a West End play.

Munster: L. Moloney (Garryowen), M. Finn (UCC), G. Barrett (Constitution), S. Dennison (Garryowen), J. Bowen (Constitution), A. Ward (St Mary’s), D. Canniffe (Lansdowne, capt.), G. McLoughlin (Shannon), P. Whelan (Garryowen), L. White (London/Irish), M. Keane (Lansdowne), B. Foley (Shannon), C. Cantillon (Constitution), D. Spring (Trinity), C. Tucker (Shannon).

All Blacks: B. McKechnie, B. Williams, B. Robertson, L. Jaffray, S. Wilson, E. Dunn, M. Donaldson, J. Johnston, J. Black, G. Knight, A. Hayden, F. Oliver, G. Maurie, A. McGregor, W. Graham.

Sub: W. Osborne from Robertson.


The 1978 win over the All Blacks was one of the great Irish rugby moments.

Sportsfile’s excellent new book ‘Great Moments in Irish Rugby‘ contains iconic photographs from famous Irish matches, dating as far back as the 1960’s.

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