By Roger Childs
You saw the character of the team and the belief. All Black skipper Richie McCaw
History for the All Blacks, but not the Irish
But the Kiwis dug deep and kept the ball moving from well in their own half, and after plenty of slick passing and excellent backing up, Ryan Crotty crossed the line out wide to break the Irish hearts.
The Irish team and the referee, Nigel Owens, were exhausted as the scores were now level at 22-22.
However, there was more drama to come.
Aaron Cruden lined up the conversion to hopefully give the All Blacks an unlikely victory, when the Irish charged too early. The kick missed, but under the rules he was given a second attempt. No mistake this time and the team was out of jail and into the history books.
In an international season that began back in June, the All Blacks became the first team in the professional era to win every test in a calendar year: 14 out of 14.
A game of two halves
Never was there a truer description of a match:
- First half: Ireland 22 All Blacks 7
- Second half: All Blacks 17 Ireland 0
Ireland played with huge passion and commitment in the first quarter and after 19 minutes led 19-0, an unprecedented score in All Black history. They bustled and unsettled the visitors and scored three very good tries. Their forwards were quicker to the breakdown and overall, the Irish had 62% of the possession in the first forty minutes.
It could be argued that half back Conor Murray dropped the ball before he scored the first try, however the early Irish pressure deserved points.
The third score was a beauty. With the All Blacks on attack deep in the Irish half, full back Rob Kearney robbed his opposite number Israel Dagg of the ball and raced 70 metres to touch down. There was a spontaneous reaction from the Irish reserves who jumped off the bench and brought Kearney home from beyond the deadball line.
Keiran Read made sure that the try was scored wide out to make the conversion more difficult. Kicker, Jonny Sexton, did well but the ball bounced off the post and two points were lost.
The All Blacks were the better side in the second quarter and Savea scored a superb try after gathering a bouncing ball at pace from a Cruden kick through. However a late penalty to Sexton put the Irish up 22-7. It was the last points they would score.
The All Blacks had had their moments in the first half, but there were too many mistakes and as Keiran Read said at half time: From our point of view we’re just not there.
The second half was dominated by the All Blacks. It was only in the last ten minutes that the Irish ventured into the visitors’ 22. Franks had scored for the All Blacks, however a determined defence kept the margin to 7 points before the last gasp All Black try.
Sexton had the chance to put the Irish victory beyond doubt with 5 minutes to go, but the relatively easy kick swung to the right of the posts. No one player should be blamed for a team losing, however as former Irish winger, Denis Hickie, said after the game
I don’t know if the guys can get over this – it’s hard to articulate the level of disappointment they will feel. They had the chance to beat the All Blacks and they didn’t take it…. Ireland’s Jonny Sexton missed a penalty kick that he will never get over.
The Irish robbed? No.
The locals with a point a minute in the first quarter, but were scoreless for the last 47 minutes. It still took all the skill of a great team to peg them back, and the All Blacks duly showed why they are number one in the world at present.
In Hickie’s words: All credit must go to the All Blacks – a lesser team would have wilted under pressure.