Ireland fell at home to New Zealand this evening despite a brave effort. The All Blacks showed why they are the best side in world rugby at present, digging deep to grind out a result.
Here are five quick take-aways from an entertaining clash in Dublin.
Beauden Barrett is different gravy. The All Blacks fly-half reaffirmed his status as the world’s top 10, playing a key role in all three tries.
His chips, tactical kicking, defence, and overall game management were impeccable.
Crowned World Player of the Year this week, the 25 year-old showed exactly how good he is with a Man of the Match performance.
His first-half cover tackle on Sean O’Brien was simply outrageous.
New Zealand line-out joy
Ireland disrupted the Kiwi line-out in Chicago, but the return of Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock flipped this on its head. Rory Best’s throws were under constant pressure, while the All Blacks enjoyed a solid platform.
While they were on the back foot for much of the second half, this set-piece guaranteed Steve Hansen’s side some clean possession, which they utilised to perfection.
Ireland will rue missed chances
To put it simply, Ireland need to be more clinical. They laid a 20 minute siege upon the New Zealand 22 in the second half, and only had three points to show for it. You are not going to beat the All Blacks without scoring tries.
Several clean line-breaks, including some remarkable yards gained by the back-row of Josh Van Der Flier, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip, yielded territory but not scores.
Going forward, they need to be more clinical in the ‘red zone’, to borrow an American Football phrase.
Andy Farrell working wonders
Whatever about Ireland’s failures to put scores on the board, the intensity in defence was outstanding.
They settled into the game after the All Blacks’ early score, and it took two remarkable efforts from the World Cup champions to cross the line.
If you limit the All Blacks to 21 points in test rugby, you give yourself every chance of recording a victory. It wasn’t to be for Ireland today.
The penalty count was a cornerstone of Ireland’s success in Chicago, and they continued that trend this evening.
Ireland gave away just four penalties in the 80 minutes. Compare this with New Zealand’s 14 offences and two yellow cards. This is clearly something which Joe Schmidt is working on in the training ground, and it is paying dividends.
Ireland lost the test in spite of this good work.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.
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