Ireland's gift cards to New Zealand

12th Jun 2010, 15:11

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Running riot: Jimmy Cowan goes over for his second

Running riot: Jimmy Cowan goes over for his second

A red card to Jamie Heaslip and a yellow to Ronan O'Gara were the key factors in Ireland's 66-28 defeat to New Zealand on Saturday.

A red card to Jamie Heaslip and a yellow to Ronan O'Gara were the key factors in Ireland's 66-28 defeat to New Zealand on Saturday.

It had been billed as Ireland's best shot at breaking their duck against the All Blacks for some time, but once Heaslip - for a knee to Kieran Read's head in a ruck - and O'Gara - for pulling back Cory Jane off the ball - had been dispatched, New Zealand ran riot, running up a 38-0 lead before taking the foot right off the gas.

The history books will show that Heaslip's red card was the catalyst for a difficult night for the Irish, but in reality it was the yellow to O'Gara ten minutes later that precipitated the collapse. While O'Gara was off, New Zealand scored 21 points to add on to the 17 they had already racked up and Ireland were staring at a massacre.

Fair dues to Ireland, once they had regrouped at half-time they made the second half count as much as possible. They'll be happy to come away with four converted tries and to have matched New Zealand punch for punch in the second half. But the reality is that New Zealand came off the boil, unforgiveably so at times. Graham Henry will be elated at the way his side played when it mattered, furious at the mental slack cut to opposition while they were on the floor.

Heaslip will be in more trouble though. The red card was fully merited for the knee to the head in a ruck. It was symptomatic of how Ireland began the match, all passion but not enough thought. It may happen to younger players who still have to learn, but for a British and Irish Lion to indulge in such idiocy is not something any coach will countenance. Heaslip faces a fair old suspension, he will also face unrestricted wrath from Declan Kidney, who has made discipline such a watchword for his side.

And if Heaslip faces such fury, O'Gara will be heading back to the hotel and hiding, trembling, under his bedsheets. Down to 14 men, Ireland's task was precarious enough but for O'Gara, a Test veteran, to paw so clumsily and pointlessly at an opponent long after the ball had been kicked ahead, is just extraordinary. He won't be suspended, but do not expect to see him in a green shirt next time out.

O'Gara's card was on 25 minutes. Two minutes later Ben Franks was over for a debut try, New Zealand's third, and the game was over in every sense.

By half-time the hosts were 38-7 up after tries by Conrad Smith, Kieran Read, Ben Franks and two for Jimmy Cowan.

Dan Tuohy, who had come on for the injured Mick O'Driscoll, brought a moment of cheer for the Irish with a try just before the break but the good moments were few and far between.

The tries kept coming for both sides in the second spell with Smith, Sam Whitelock (two) and Neemia Tialata going over for the All Blacks and Brian O'Driscoll, Tommy Bowe and Gordon D'Arcy touching down for consolation scores for the Irish.

Worryingly, the Irish injury toll also showed no sign of abating. John Hayes was ruled out with a virus before kick-off to be replaced by Tony Buckley and before half-time John Muldoon and Mick O'Driscoll had also departed.

Ireland began the match with an audacious drop-goal attempt from almost halfway by full-back Rob Kearney but other scoring moments in the opening 40 minutes were scant - particularly once Heaslip and O'Gara were on the sidelines.

Smith made the most of a Kearney error at the back to grab the opening try and Dan Carter added the extras to his earlier penalty.

Ireland came close to replying but Gordon D'Arcy was held up and then Heaslip had his moment of madness.

English referee Wayne Barnes, who was greeted with boos by the partisan crowd at the start of the match, had no hesitation in brandishing the red card and Ireland's night took a turn for the worse.

Read was over for his first Test try on 21 minutes after great lead-up work by Israel Dagg, Benson Stanley and Joe Rokocoko.

Carter's conversion made him the fourth player to reach 1000 Test points behind Jonny Wilkinson, Neil Jenkins and Diego Dominguez.

O'Gara departed for 10 minutes shortly afterwards for his indiscretion and from there on Ireland's 13-man defence was opened up regularly by Dagg and Stanley, who looked confident on their debuts.

Debutant prop Ben Franks was next over the whitewash before Jimmy Cowan bagged a quickfire brace and all of them were converted by Carter for a 38-0 lead.

Tuohy, who had come on for O'Driscoll, rounded off the half on a positive note for Ireland with a try on debut which O'Gara - in his 99th Test - converted.

A mistake by prop Cian Healy handed New Zealand an early chance in the second half before Dagg's pass put Jane clear on the counter and he put Smith in for his second.

Graham Henry turned to his bench and lock Sam Whitelock became the third player on debut to score a five-pointer within a minute of replacing Brad Thorn.
Carter's conversion was his last meaningful action before being replaced by another new recruit Aaron Cruden.

Ireland were not going to go down without a fight and continued to play the attacking brand of rugby they promised during the week.

Brian O'Driscoll typified that when he featured twice on his way to his 40th international try, and then Tommy Bowe pounced on a poor pass by Richie McCaw to dart over for the visitors' third. O'Gara was on target with both conversions.

New Zealand were not finished, though, and from a quick tap substitute Tialata rumbled over.

With Carter off the park, Piri Weepu took over goal-kicking duties and continued the perfect record of the night by banging over the conversion.

Ireland winger Andrew Trimble should have done better with seven minutes left but lost the ball forward as he went for the line.

D'Arcy made no mistake three minutes later when he went over for Ireland's fourth but it was young lock Whitelock who had the final say, dotting down for New Zealand's ninth and final try.

Man of the match: Plenty on New Zealand's team, but the one who stood out most was Kieran Read, whose work-rate was the spine of New Zealand's mobile limbs.

Moment of the match: Again, plenty to choose from, but the break by Israel Dagg and inside offload to Jimmy Cowan for Cowan's first try was a moment of sumptuous skill.

Villain of the match: Obvious joint awards. Jamie Heaslip's knee was nasty, while Ronan O'Gara's silly foul and yellow card ended the match as a contest.

The scorers:

For New Zealand:
Tries: Smith 2, Read, Ben Franks, Cowan 2, Whitelock 2, Tialata
Cons:Carter 8, Weepu
Pen: Carter

For Ireland:
Tries: Tuohy, O'Driscoll, Bowe, D'Arcy
Cons: O'Gara 3, Sexton

Yellow card: O'Gara (Ireland, 25, foul off the ball)

Red card: Heaslip (Ireland, 16, knee to the head)

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Joe