Despite the scale of last Saturday’s defeat, the Irish squad appeared far from deflated in the immediate aftermath. Rather, they believe there were many fixable aspects to the performance which, if rectified, can still make them very competitive in next Saturday’s second Test.
“Yeah, I think everyone after the game was weirdly felt positive about it,” said Tadhg Beirne afterwards. “Obviously we were disappointed with their win and the manner in which we lost, but we felt we had some really good moments and that if we can just get a couple of things right that we certainly have the beating of them. That’s certainly how we feel as a squad.
“We’re very happy that we get to play them again next week and a massive opportunity to get to put a few things right and hopefully get one over on them.”
This was Beirne’s first game since the Six Nations finale against Scotland, as what he thought was a two-week injury morphed into four, six and 12 weeks, and made his inclusion in the squad for this tour “touch and go”.
Needless to say, he was sucking diesel early on but managed to contribute strongly for 65 minutes, and was “a bit battered and bruised” afterwards.
“It was my first game in 15 weeks so I think personally I found it a little bit tough at times just to stay with it. But that’s part of it, coming back into it, but I wouldn’t say it was any more physical than being at home in the Aviva.
“I think we started really well. We probably had them on the ropes I suppose at the start but we are in Eden Park, they are playing at home and we’ve got to be ready for them to throw it back at you. And I think they had a few moments from our mistakes as well and probably turned the tide a little bit.
“We were battling then to get ourselves back into it and unfortunately for us it was mistakes and it was discipline and it was just easy access for them to get back into our half and to get back on top. That’s probably why we found ourselves down by so many points at half-time.
“I think we came out in the second half and were ready to go again and we scored early and then we exited well. And then we got a penalty and then we lost that lineout and they went up and scored.
“So we kind of found ourselves doubling up on our errors and when we made an error they capitalised on it and that’s probably where we lost the game really.”
“But better to get 60 minutes under my belt so I might feel a bit better than the first 20 minutes of that game. I don’t know what it looked like from the sidelines but it was tough on the lungs. All the lads were saying it was a tough 20 minutes and it will definitely stand to me next week if I’m back out there, for sure.”
Beirne’s point of difference is his ability to engineer turnovers, although this has become more difficult to achieve as referees allow attacking teams more time to recycle the ball. Reflecting the views of his head coach, Beirne has become puzzled by the changing interpretations at the breakdown.
“Yeah. I don’t really understand what’s going on with the breakdown personally, because this time last year they were giving penalties for fun in terms of poaching and now it’s like you have to be in there for 20 seconds and come out with the ball, otherwise you’re not getting the ball.
“Probably in at the side is something they were looking at for a while,” said Beirne, implying officials are less likely to do so now.
“It’s just one of those areas, it’s a tough one. These are tough areas for referees to ref and it’s a bit frustrating when you’re a poacher and you probably feel like you’re on the ball from longer than you probably are. And we think we should be coming away with more and that’s just the way the game is and you probably have to deal with that and play to how the refs are reefing again. That’s probably something we’ll have to look at too.”