Safe hands: Brian O'Driscoll charges in after brilliantly scooping the ball from the ground to score Ireland's second try against New Zealand yesterday

To the visitors, victory; to the hosts a memory of a strange kind of (first half) glory. And some real moments of gallentry in the second half to go with it as well.

This was an occasion when bravery met birlliance head on and there could only ever be one winner. But unlike our displays against South Africa and Samoa earlier this month, there was something to be proud of in the displays of the Irish players at the Aviva Stadium last night.

If this was a boxing match, it would have been a cruiser weight fighting someone from the heavy division.

For some reason, we seemed smaller and never quite as strong as Graham Henry's crew. Over 80 minutes, that meant we couldn't really compete for the result. However, the players were heroic in their desire to win the ball. And they needed to be. Our record against the All Blacks now reads 23 losses and one draw in 24 matches. Plus ça change so!

Yet we managed to suspend real time for a few megaseconds in the first half when we had the temerity to go ahead 13-9 thanks to a referee who didn't really consider forward passing to be an offence. After three bad calls against us in open play, we were delighted when Jamie Heaslip put one forward for Stephen Ferris to run on to and score.

Just when we were about to pinch ourselves, New Zealand did, with tries either side of half-time restoring a more probable scoreline. Reality bites. And those 14 points meant the scenario of a proper contest was instead changed into a game of double scores, 26-13.

And there was still 33 minutes to go. Two minutes later another try. Now we could see their plan; they were just beating us up in the first-half - the second half was the time for the knock out. It is to our credit that we not only refused to hit the canvas but threw a few scoring punches ourselves.