New Zealand media reaction: ‘Ireland’s tour is fast descending into treacherous territory’

The rugby world is rotating on the correct axis now that the All Blacks are once again in the ascendancy

Marc Hinton, the senior sport writer with the Dominion Post newspaper, opened his analysis piece on New Zealand’s 42-19 victory over Ireland with the following observation: “Unusual week, unreal response.

“The All Blacks were challenged on multiple fronts before this test but their answer on Saturday night at Eden Park was pure class. Not so much a crisis averted as smashed into the ether.”

Writing under the headline “All Blacks forwards muscle up to lay might foundation for victory over Ireland”, a fair summation of how the game panned out, Hinton paid homage to the home pack whom he described as “dominant in the scrum,” and “who very much won the battle of the heavy-lifters.”

He concluded his analysis with the following pay-off. “In Dublin they’d sand kicked in their faces. At Eden Park, as their 28-year unbeaten run continued, the All Blacks walked off with smiles on their dials.”

If reflected a communal sigh of relief in the New Zealand media as any pregame anxiety dissipated now that rugby’s natural order was restored with the All Blacks claiming what they would perceive to be their rightful place in the rivalry.

Liam Napier writing in the New Zealand Herald offered a few ‘home truths’ for Ireland. “Often the All Blacks’ nemesis in recent years, having won three of their previous five tests, Ireland gradually disintegrated in front of a 48,195-strong crowd.

“As the match wore, and the All Blacks’ dominance grew, Ireland’s frustration became clear. By the finish, the notion that Ireland are a different beast at home rung true.” He concluded the match report the following warning. “Yet as the losses mount — this defeat coming after the midweek humbling by New Zealand Māori in Hamilton — and troops continue to drop, Ireland’s tour is fast descending into treacherous territory.”

The only slightly discordant note to the general levels of satisfaction was struck by Robert van Royen on Stuff website, who warned that New Zealand flanker Scott Barrett could be in trouble for a shoulder shot to the head of stand-in Ireland captain, Peter O’Mahony.

Under the heading, “All Blacks ought to sweat on possible Scott Barrett citing after high shot”, he wrote: “Ian Foster might resemble a phone-obsessed teen checking his phone,” later suggesting that “head coach Foster’s biggest concern in the wash-up should be the prospect of receiving news Barrett is cited for his clean out.” Barrett did make contact with O’Mahony’s head.

The incident happened right in front of English referee Karl Dickson who refused to refer the matter to the television match official Marius van der Westhuizen when O’Mahony appealed and instead said: “I thought it was on the body with no arm.”

It is not just French television directors that don’t show replays of controversial incidents in rugby matches that might count against the national team; the New Zealand cousins decided that the incident didn’t merit a second airing.

Van Royen pointed out that “nobody should need reminding that Barrett has form and should the citing commissioner deem it warranted a red card, he can expect a lengthy spell on the sidelines.” He added that the player picked up a red card in a Crusaders match in April for which he received a four-week suspension reduced to three after completing a coach intervention course, having previously been sent off against Australia (2019).

Andrew Voerman gave the match a 7/10 rating stating: “Ireland offered more than many visitors to these shores have at this time of year have, especially in the opening 20 minutes, while the All Blacks’ finish to the first half was them at their clinical best.”

Gregor Paul highlighted three areas in his analysis in which New Zealand were superior. “Ireland weren’t so far behind the All Blacks in the core facets of winning the ball and the collisions. But they were light years behind in being able to sniff and exploit even a half-chance and the ability of the All Blacks to pounce on counterattack and sense where an opponent is weak remains the gift that they alone possess.

“There was prematch talk of the All Blacks being in terminal decline, but they continue to be blessed with the sharpest instincts in world rugby and the difference between the two teams came down to their respective ability to convert pressure into points. It was here that the All Blacks were lethal.

“Ireland had more possession and more territory but the All Blacks had more awareness, more cohesion and certainty when they had the ball and were clinical, bordering on ruthless at times.”

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer