Ireland A battered, bruised and outclassed by a dominant All Blacks Development XV

Damian McKenzie shows his class as he leads visiting side to impressive win at the RDS

Ireland A 19 All Blacks Development XV 47

Ireland A were overwhelmed by a New Zealand Development XV that mixed up gorgeous attacking rugby with physically punishing tackling in a dominant performance that brooked no argument. Seven tries to three underlined that superiority but the home side will be disappointed that they facilitated several scores with basic mistakes.

Some of the stuff that the visitors dished out was borderline, but referee Matthew Carley and his officials were happy that it was on the legitimate side of acceptable. The visitors had seven senior All Blacks in their ranks and it showed at times, none more so than watching the masterful Damian McKenzie run the game.

The home side were courageous, none more so than Ciarán Frawley, James Hume and Jamie Osborne in trying to find space. Calvin Nash had an excellent game while up front Jeremy Loughman, Tom O’Toole and Cian Prendergast toiled with vigour and honesty, so too Gavin Thornbury. As a team though, the scratch side lacked cohesion and under that physical assault made too many errors.


Jack Crowley showed some nice touches on his arrival, Ross Molony, who played 73 minutes, worked assiduously while Max Deegan added significant value that went beyond his try.

On 10 minutes the All Blacks Development side took the lead, changing the point of attack from the fringes to wider channels and all the while playing at high speed. McKenzie spotted Ireland captain and scrumhalf Craig Casey defending on the wing and his cross-kick was inch perfect allowing Shaun Stevenson to win the aerial duel and race over unopposed. McKenzie tagged on the conversion.

The difference between the two sides in that opening quarter was that the New Zealand players’ timing on to the ball was excellent, coming from depth and at pace, profiting from their ability to offload through the tackle to punch holes.

Ireland A weren’t helped in losing a couple of lineouts that gave the visitors precious turnover possession and this coupled with pressure induced indiscipline allowed New Zealand to kick their way to within five metres of the line. From there hooker Brodie McAlister profited from a well co-ordinated lineout maul with a few extra backs to touchdown. McKenzie converted.

A third try and a second for Stevenson came from yet another lineout turnover, this time in the New Zealand 22. McKenzie was first on to the ball, made the initial headway and from there the ball eventually found Stevenson who stepped inside Nick Timoney’s despairing tackle to score. At 19-0 the visitors were full value for their lead.

The All Blacks Development XV were brutal in their tackling, heavy hitting in the collisions that stopped Irish players in their tracks, most of it legitimate, but on a couple of occasions it went beyond the pale of what was acceptable. Flanker Luke Jacobson paid for his clearout on James Hume with a yellow card.

Ireland A lost two players, secondrow Joe McCarthy and fullback Michael Lowry, to head injury assessments with just the latter returning. The visitors employed ‘shooters’ from the defensive line to put the Irish passing game under pressure.

It was very effective and even on the rare occasions when the player was patently offside, Ireland looked to Carley for a whistle that was rarely blown. The visitors managed to get a hand in to disrupt Casey at the breakdown several times, the scrumhalf having to adapt to the relentless pressure.

Ireland, buffeted and bullied for much of the half in the collisions, finally managed a passage of rugby clarity, taking a leaf out of their opponents’ playbook.

On 36 minutes Jeremy Loughman carried powerfully and through the first line of defence inside the visitors 22, Prendergast and O’Toole both offloaded in the tackle to enable Frawley to crash over under the posts; the outhalf added the conversion.

The second half was just 45 seconds old when Stevenson turned creator, his break eventually finished off by fullback Reuben Love, converted by McKenzie as the visitors reasserted their authority.

Frawley departed soon after, hampered by a calf issue to be replaced by Crowley. Another sweeping All Blacks counterattack culminated in a try for centre Braydon Ennor, but the home side did raise the spirits of the home crowd with a try from replacement Marty Moore.

Ireland’s play became increasingly ragged as they tried to force their passes and from those mistakes New Zealand punished them rigorously. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck intercepted a pass in the Irish 22, that eventually led to a try for AJ Lam, McKenzie scoring another after the home side were turned over at a ruck.

Ireland did finish with a flourish, the excellent Nash involved twice, including a nice offload to the indefatigable Prendergast with Deegan bursting through a couple of tackles from close range to touchdown. Crowley tagged on the conversion but it was mere window dressing on a night when the New Zealand Development XV left a mark in every respect.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 10 mins: Stevenson try, McKenzie con, 0-7; 20: McAlister try, McKenzie con, 0-14; 24: Stevenson try, 0-19; 37: Frawley try, Frawley con, 7-19. Half-time: 7-19. 41: Love try, McKenzie con, 7-26; 53: Ennor try, McKenzie con, 7-33; 58: Moore try, 12-33; 60: Lam try, McKenzie con, 12-40; 73: McKenzie try, McKenzie con, 12-47; 77: Deegan try, Crowley con, 19-47.

IRELAND A: M Lowry (Ulster); C Nash (Munster), J Osborne (Leinster), J Hume (Ulster), J Stockdale (Ulster); Ciarán Frawley (Leinster), C Casey (Munster, capt); J Loughman (Munster), D Heffernan (Connacht), T O’Toole (Ulster); J McCarthy (Leinster), G Thornbury (Connacht); C Prendergast (Connacht), N Timoney (Ulster), G Coombes (Munster Munster).

Replacements: R Molony (Leinster) for McCarthy (HIA, 7 mins); S Daly (Munster) for Lowry (HIA, 28-h/t) J Crowley (Munster) for Frawley (46); D Barron (Munster) for Heffernan, D Kilcoyne (Munster) for Loughman, M Moore (Ulster) for O’Toole (all 51); M Deegan (Leinster) for Coombes (53); Daly for Hume (56); C Blade (Connacht) for Casey (68).

ALL BLACKS DEVELOPMENT XV: R Love (Hurricanes); S Stevenson (Chiefs), B Ennor (Crusaders), R Tuivasa-Sheck (Blues), AJ Lam (Blues); D McKenzie (Chiefs), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes); A Ross (Chiefs), B McAlister (Crusaders), T Mafileo (Hurricanes); J Dickson (Highlanders), P Tuipolotu (Blues); D Gardiner (Crusaders), L Jacobsen (Chiefs), M Mikaele-Tu’u (Highlanders).

Replacements: T Williams (Crusaders) for Mafileo, Z Gallagher (Crusaders) for Dickson (51 mins); A Nankevill (Chiefs) for Tuivasa-Sheck, F Brewis (Crusaders) for Ross (both 64); J Ioane (Chiefs) for Love, C Roigard (Hurricanes) for Perenara (both 65); C Leo-Willie (Crusaders) for Mikaele-Tu’u, T Thompson (Chiefs) for McAlister (both 68).

Yellow card: L Jacobsen (30 mins).

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer