Having enjoyed a simply astounding 12 months of success, Ireland were tonight crowned World Rugby Team of the Year for the very first time.
There was little doubting that Joe Schmidt’s side had stamped their authority all over the global game in 2018, the boys in green having thrilled and delighted supporters of all nations with a series of breath-taking triumphs.
Here, we take a look back at the major milestones from an unprecedented year for the reigning kings of the Six Nations.
HOME NATIONS BOW TO THE BOYS IN GREEN
All roads lead to Rugby’s Greatest Championship and Ireland put themselves on the path to greatness by dispatching all comers in the 2018 Six Nations.
The Irish romped to a historic third Grand Slam and after four matches they had already claimed the Championship crown.
Johnny Sexton’s late drop-goal helped start things off with a 15-13 win over Les Bleus at the Stade de France and a 56-19 win over Italy followed in Dublin in Round Two.
Wales were next to visit Aviva Stadium and were also sent packing, Jacob Stockdale scoring a brace of tries in a 37-27 success.
Then, Ireland restricted Scotland to a single try as they ran out 28-8 winners before Grand Slam glory was secured with a sublime 24-15 win over England at Twickenham Stadium.
THE THUNDER DOWN UNDER
Having conquered one hemisphere, Schmidt’s troops headed Down Under and claimed the scalp of the Wallabies.
In stirring fashion, Ireland claimed their first series win over Australia since 1979, doing so by winning two Tests to one south of the equator.
The series got off to a testing start, the Wallabies defeating the Irish 18-9 in Brisbane in June, but the reaction from Ireland was emphatic.
In a thriller in Melbourne, Sexton kicked 16 points while Andrew Conway and Tadhg Furlong dotted down to inspire the visitors to a 26-21 success.
That teed up a deciding showdown in Sydney and the tourists withstood everything Australia had to throw at them, CJ Stander dotting down as they ran out 20-16 winners to bring a 39-year wait for a Test series win over the Wallabies to an end.
AN UNFORGETTABLE TRIUMPH
Earlier this month came the result that made the world stand still.
In astonishing fashion, Ireland usurped reigning World champions New Zealand, ending an 113-year wait for a win over the All Blacks on Irish soil.
A momentous day at Aviva Stadium unfolded, with Schmidt’s side pulling off a sublime 16-9 victory and besting the southern hemisphere’s finest.
New Zealand chief Steve Hansen hailed the Irish as the best team on the planet after seeing his champions defeated and the evidence is compelling – Ireland coming out on top in one of the finest games of rugby seen anywhere in the world in recent years.