'A life-changing win' - Munster, 1978

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    28 Oct 2018     Getty Images

The result was the only loss suffered by Graham Mourie's men on the first Grand Slam tour achieved by the All Blacks in 1978 and was the first win by any side from Ireland over New Zealand. Ward played a key role, it was his chip kick that resulted in the only try of the game to Christy Cantillon which he converted while he landed two key dropped goals as well.

Ward wrote in his Irish Independent column that the 'greatest 80-minute experience of his rugby-playing career and what transpired in Limerick on October 31, 1978 stands well and truly alone'.

"I know that I speak for all 22 involved that memorable day when I say that they too share that view. Big Moss [Keane] and Gerry McLoughlin played in the historic Triple Crown-winning breakthrough with Ireland (first since 1949) in 1982 but each treasured Munster's win over the All Blacks as the greatest of their lot," he said.

The preparation for the game had been unprecedented in Munster history, he said, because the players gathered on the Saturday before the Tuesday, over a holiday weekend in Ireland.

"The detail of what transpired in Thomond that sun-drenched Halloween afternoon is pretty well-recorded at this stage. However, what made it extra special was the build-up and, for self-evident reasons, the afters. I do not exaggerate when I say that we trained in mudbath conditions before one, maybe two men and a dog in Corbally while on the other side of town in Crescent College across the road from Dooradoyle (Garryowen Football Club) there were massive traffic and crowd issues as rugby-daft Limerick made its way to see the mighty All Blacks train in the flesh," he said.

Ward said the side also prepared with a water pistol-plagued cruise on a local lake, something that achieved what he called 'a unifying sweet point'.

Munster had its own legacy dating back to the side's contact with Dave Gallaher's 1905-06 Originals which had helped ensure future international games would be 'fifth Test matches' for visiting touring sides. That was a factor in what his side achieved.

"We didn't expect to beat the mighty All Blacks but did we believe we could? Yes, yes and yes again," he said.

"I cannot speak for all (although I suspect I do) when I say that the Munster legacy against touring sides was the strongest asset but equally the greatest burden of all running out in Limerick on that spring-like October day…

"…for us individually and collectively it was about performance and honouring the past. With that in place, anything and everything was possible. It is a philosophy that applies in every sporting endeavour to this day," he said.

Skipper Donal Canniffe, whose father died while listening to a radio commentary of the game, had told the side at halftime, when they were 9-0 up, that they were '40 minutes from immortality'.

"Motivational words in the context of what still needed to be done, the prize now dangling, and how with more of the same it was within touching distance," he said.

Ward said the win was without doubt a 'life-changing' result in a sporting context and the most satisfying 80 minutes of his sporting life.

"To have broken the psychological barrier when beating the All Blacks for the very first time was special but to have done so in Thomond before so many passionate Munster rugby folk made it even more special again," he said.