WATCH: Simon Zebo's seismic tackle on Michael Hooper was the very definition of all or nothing 6 years ago

WATCH: Simon Zebo's seismic tackle on Michael Hooper was the very definition of all or nothing

Simon Zebo must have wondered what he had done to deserve a place on the Ireland bench.

He had played well against the All Blacks, twice, but was in reserve while his Munster teammate Keith Earls got the left wing start. Zebo had been suffering from a stiff neck and leg cramps earlier in the week but he would have been determined to hold down his starting spot.

Advertisement

Schmidt went with Earls but had to get Zebo on as early as the 10th minute when Rob Kearney went off with suspected concussion. Into fullback he slipped and it was from there that he put through a grubber kick that bounced up so nicely for Earls to offload and Iain Henderson to dive over.

Simon Zebo celebrates with try scorer Iain Henderson 26/11/2016

Just after the half-hour mark and Andrew Trimble's calf strain saw him hobble off. Joey Carbery replaced him, Earls went to the right wing and Zebo was back on the coveted left wing.

He finished out the game there and it was some game. 45 metres gained off 12 carries, which included one line break up the right wing and a couple of lovely offloads.

Advertisement

As well as he played and as hard as Ireland fought, they appeared to be running on fumes in the second half. Australia accumulated 17 points in opening 20 minutes of the second half and Ireland were in a deep, dark place.

Michael Hooper won his side a penalty on 61 minutes and, when Bernard Foley slotted it over, the Wallabies were four points up and looking primed. Hooper and David Pocock were making hay and the Aussies were sniping from all angles.

The next play was absolutely crucial and even though Australia claimed the restart, Ireland's blitzing defensive press paid off. It was gung-ho stuff and Zebo [circled red] led the charge.

Zebo analysis

Advertisement

As a looping pass made its way to Hooper, not far from his own tryline, Zebo was already committed. He had tossed in every last chip. He needed to make it too.

Had Hooper got away from him it would have been a three-on-one. Had he passed the ball, on, it would have been a two-on-one. Only Carbery [circled green above] was home.

Zebo had gambled and he needed to win. Ireland needed him to win.

Zebo Hooper 1

Advertisement

He won alright.

Zebo Hooper

Australia were forced to kick for touch from behind their own tryline. Ireland gained possession in the Australian half and made it count.

A little over three minutes later and they were over for the match-winning try.

Simon Zebo pass. Keith Earls try.

Advertisement

This man was tuned in from the moment he was called into action. It was a joy to behold.

Dick Clerkin makes his GAA Hour debut to talk about a wonderful career and argue passionately with Colm Parkinson over Sky Sports GAA. Subscribe here on iTunes.