Well, Ireland put in an amazing performance against New Zealand, one of their best ever, but it still wasn’t enough to beat the All Blacks. A last minute (literally- it was scored with 40 seconds remaining on the clock) Dan Carter drop-goal denied Ireland, with the match finishing, 22-19.
It was a terrific performance by Ireland. A complete turn-around from the previous week’s. The Irish team were much more aggressive in their play, and but for ill-discipline, they could have one the match.
Ireland dominated the first half, finishing with a 10-9 lead, Conor Murray scoring a try after a lot of Irish pressure at the New Zealand line. The great Dan Carter was nullified expertly, his only significant contribution his 3 kicks at goal.
New Zealand got an early try in the second-half, though, meaning that Ireland had to play catch-up for most of the half. Ireland did come back though, and, but for a missed Sexton penalty they could have won the game.
New Zealand full-back Israel Dagg had been yellow-carded at the 72 minute mark. Sexton went for the penalty but the ball fell short. New Zealand then turned on the pressure towards the end and Carter finally got his drop, his first attempt going wide.
Heart-breaking for Ireland and its fans, with the added feeling that this may have been our best chance of beating New Zealand. The players will have given their all for this game and may not have much left, especially after the season they’ve had. D’Arcy and Heaslip have been ruled out of the last game, not helping our chances.
On the other hand, the All Blacks will have been woken up by the great Irish performance and won’t want to be caught out again. Ireland should be encouraged by their showing but I don’t think it will be enough for 2 great games in a row.
On a related note, I still think that Ireland should have played the 3 southern hemisphere sides, instead of New Zealand 3 times. I think they would have learned far more against 3 different sides, with different players and styles, etc.
The 3 losses against the All Blacks will taught them hardly anything. It seems all the more pointless considering that Wales and England are also engaged in 3 match series, against Australia and South Africa respectively, both also suffering 2 defeats each.
Both Wales and England were competitive in their games, Wales almost won their second test, but these results only prove to widen the gulf between the 2 hemispheres. If all 3 countries played each of the SANZAR teams, that would have been much better all round.
Scotland seem to have the right idea. After their shock win over Australia, they went on to beat Fiji, and finally they face Samoa. Probably not as taxing but they get the same match practice, and can try out new players in less-pressured environments.
On a happier note, Ireland’s rugby future seems to be taken care of, with the Under-20 side doing very well in the Under-20 (Junior) World Cup. The highlight was their great win over South Africa, 23-19.
A win against South Africa is impressive at any level. Their next match was against England, which they narrowly lost, 20-15. They then smashed Italy 41-12, to place second in the pool.
They then beat England in a return game, 27-12, and now face France to decide who will be placed 5th in the world rankings.
Ireland’s impressive performances have been capped off by JJ Hanrahan been nominated for the IRB Junior Player of the Year, the first Irish player to be nominated for the award. He should be one to watch in the future.