Ireland are being congratulated on a job well done against the All Blacks, beating them for the third time in five years.
First it was their shootout win in Chicago, then the Aviva arm wrestle in 2018, but this morning was different.
Ian Foster even admitted post match that this was the “best Irish performance in my time” and it’s pretty hard to disagree. The 29-20 result really could have been a greater margin, given the overwhelming amount of possession and territory the home side had, but it’s unlikely anyone currently celebrating in Temple Bar cares one bit.
This was a complete defeat inflicted on the All Blacks. There was a sniff of a repeat on the cards of the 2013 miracle win by them at the same venue, but had that eventuated then it would have been a travesty. It’s not so much that they played particularly badly, it’s that they were barely allowed to play at all by an Irish team who could smell blood in the water. After Kiwi-turned-Irishman James Lowe opened the scoring with a well taken try in the corner, it felt like the only time the All Blacks touched the ball was when Codie Taylor streaked away untouched. It has to rank among one of the great sporting miracles that they somehow lead at half time, but even that wasn’t really fooling anyone.
While their goal line defence was outstanding, it was never going to keep the Irish out forever, cracking minutes after the restart when Ronan Kelleher bashed over. Caelan Doris’s surge up the middle signified that the dam had burst, from then on the Irish were content to let the All Blacks chase them. Will Jordan’s piece of trademark freakishness pulled them close, but again that was completely against the run of play and, if anything, caused them to shift gears to really kill the game off.
It was then that Ireland really showed just how dominant they were, not even letting the All Blacks out of their half for the remaining moments, that loss eight years ago still obviously very much in their minds. While there was jubilation at the end, the reaction from a lot of the Irishmen looked like they always knew they were going to win this test anyway. In fact, the most excited was Lowe, who may well have been an All Black not that long ago and freely admitted as much in his post match interview. The last two Irish losses were to NZ-born coach Joe Schmidt, this time Super Rugby castoffs Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park and Bundee Aki all were part of the green monster wave that engulfed the All Blacks and drowned them slowly in front of 50,000 fired up fans.
It’s hard to really say who played well for the All Blacks, given that they all had to tackle more than any other match they’ll play this year. They do deserve some credit for that but they still did leak their second highest total of the season, which puts the spotlight firmly on Foster and his staff about what sort of game plan they had going in. They were out coached by Andy Farrell, pure and simple, who had done his homework and backed his veteran Johnny Sexton to get the job done. The All Blacks’ response was to try and bash Sexton out of the game, and while that did eventually happen late in the second half, till then it just seemed to make the 36-year-old play better and better.
This is the problem now for Foster and also John Plumtree, who have repeated ad nauseum the need for All Black physicality. While shots on Irish ball carriers were fierce and repeated, the aggression needed to be channelled into actually getting the ball back, which only seemed to happen an inch out from their tryline.
The All Blacks need to find that formula, fast. Another loss next week and there will be more questions than answers about this 2021 campaign.
SOURCE: RNZ NEWS