Following a 23-12 victory for Ireland over New Zealand in their July international, here’s our five takeaways from the match in Dunedin on Saturday.
Ireland maintain intensity and accuracy in historic win
After the frustration of last weekend, where an excellent start gave way to a mistake-ridden final 60 minutes, this was so much better from the tourists. Yes, they were still profligate and didn’t score the points their dominance deserved but Andy Farrell’s men managed to keep their foot on the throat in the second Test. They kept up with the pace the All Blacks inevitably put on the ball, controlled the gain line, won the aerial battle and had the hosts under immense pressure throughout. Despite the close-ish nature of the scoreline, this was ultimately a hammering.
All Blacks pay the price for lax Super Rugby officiating
Quite frankly, the southern hemisphere don’t want to properly deal with foul play and, as a result, it proved costly for New Zealand in Dunedin. From Leicester Fainga’anuku’s reckless challenge (more on that below) to Angus Ta’avao’s technically poor tackle on Garry Ringrose, their discipline was extremely poor. Those in New Zealand have been the most outspoken against the clampdown in dangerous challenges, desperately wanting the 20-minute red card to effectively excuse the illegal actions of players, and that attitude cost them on Saturday. Thankfully for the All Blacks it wasn’t a World Cup knockout game and they have a chance to change down their attitudes ahead of next year’s competition.
All Blacks fortunate despite card punishment
While they received three cards, it could have been much, much worse for the hosts. On another day, Fainga’anuku would have seen red for his challenge on Mack Hansen and Ireland would have been awarded a penalty try after Ofa Tuungafasi was yellow carded for tugging back Ringrose with the line beckoning. Coincidently, Tuungafasi and Ta’avao were off the field at the same time which meant uncontested scrums for a brief period. New Zealand should have therefore been briefly down to 12, akin to Italy in the Six Nations, who only had one player sent off but were reduced to 13 because of the laws. Jaco Peyper evidently didn’t realise it and it benefited the All Blacks who had enough men on the field to pressurise the Ireland backline and force a knock on.
Heroic Irish defence
Ireland delivered a superb all-round performance and richly deserved their win as they held the upper hand in most facets of play but something which should delight Farrell and the rest of his coaching staff is the huge defensive effort from his troops – especially during the latter stages of this Test. Yes, the All Blacks scored a consolation try in the 77th minute when Will Jordan went over out wide but prior to that Samisoni Taukei’aho, Pita Gus Sowakula and Aidan Ross all had cracks at Ireland’s line before Folau Fakatava and Brodie Retallick were denied by heroic defence from the visitors. That is testament to excellent fitness levels from the visitors and illustrates that they were matching the All Blacks physically – something which few teams have managed over the years.
Brainless and one-dimensional All Blacks
Ireland controlled possession and territory well and delivered a structured performance whereas their opponents were the complete opposite of that. There was plenty of desperation from the All Blacks when calm heads were needed under the inevitable pressure which came with them being reduced to 14 men after Ta’avao received his marching orders. What followed was a very disjointed performance from Ian Foster’s troops as they opted to run the ball from all areas of the field – especially in the first half – with the hope of clinching the result. Throwing the ball wide with the hope of beating Irish was never going to work and as a result the visitors completely dominated.