Paul O’Connell and Joe Schmidt left devastated by this painful defeat
Determination in the Ireland camp that this will not be a one-off performance
Ireland’s Paul O’Connell and Rob Kearney look dejected after Ryan Crotty’s late try. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Paul O’Connell’s demeanour, that deep set frown across his massive brow, revealed more than words possibly could.
Same goes for Joe Schmidt’s quiet, polite responses. The eyes told us everything you need to know about hurt.
It was a grim sight, two proud men trying to make sense of the most crushing loss.
But O’Connell and Schmidt talk better than most.
Certainly, the 95 Test veteran lacks the ability to err on the side of bullshit. His performance was everything it could be, a return from the injury cursed recent times. 13 tackles, one more than an inspired Devin Toner, a lineout masterclass and his mauling was delivery of an unspoken promise to lead by example.
But none of that matters.
That final penalty, coughed up by Jack McGrath for going off his feet, was miles from the Ireland try-line. Also, the defence had time to realign as Richie McCaw was pulled back by Nigel Owens for taking it quickly from the wrong place.
The All Blacks didn’t even consider the touchline. Tap and go for broke. The winning mentality in technicolour.
“When we gave away that final penalty we were [over] 60 metres from our line so I would have been very confidant with the way we were defending that we would hold them out at that stage so, you know, it’s really disappointing.
“There was a very good feeling in the camp all week . . .”
Balancing of talent
O’Connell went on to commend the accuracy, detail and balancing of talent while playing with “intensity and attitude and emotion.”
“And we got all that . . . But you have to give credit to New Zealand’s character as well.”
To both O’Connell and Schmidt, the conversion of Ryan Crotty’s try that Owens allowed Aaron Cruden to re-take to ensure the perfect 14 victories from 14 games in 2013, meant nothing. To hell with 1973 and the Tom Grace try in the corner for a 10-all draw.
To them, in the context of yesterday, a draw is the same as defeat.
“We wouldn’t have to deal with it if we had of defended from the penalty,” said O’Connell.
“We could’ve avoided any hassle if we had of defended them so it is kind of irrelevant.”
The problem was endurance. By the end, the All Blacks had broken too many Irish players.
Schmidt described his team as “piecemeal” by those last few moments, and it was very apparent that too many wounded had to remain in the fight. For one, Seán Cronin was certainly injured but Rory Best’s broken arm meant the wounded hooker had to continue.