How the Irish players rated against the All Blacks
A perfect 10 for scrum half Conor Murray on a day all the Irish players excelled
Ireland’s Conor Murray scores their third try. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Comeback Kearney. Supposedly washed up, past his sell by date, Kearney shut a lot of people up by out-leaping Ben Smith off a restart before taking that sumptuous inside line to create Stander’s try. Two defensive errors did impact on the scoreboard.
Emptied Liam Squire on 73 minutes as the ball fumbled from the flanker’s grasp and into touch. Good night. Ran over by ‘The Bus’ the one time but it wasn’t costly as help arrived in the form of Kearney and van der Flier. Chopped Savea’s ankle on 54 minutes. Vital. Brilliant in defence.
The adopted Kiwi. His fellow countrymen seemed to hit and target him harder than others, rubbing plenty of relish over his face on the turf. He got up and smiled every time. It was his defensive brain that denied multiple offloads, and therefore multiple New Zealand tries, and there was that superb skip pass leading up to Henshaw’s try.
A stunning performance wrapped neatly by his late, game clinching try. Still 23, he deserves enormous praise considering the punishment, the late belts, for holding ball long enough to create a half break for others at a tremendous cost to his rib cage.
Hurt himself landing after an epic catch. Clearly learning the Joe way. Heads up rugby as ever but always stepped away from the touchline in possession. As the coach would demand. Finished his try perfectly after the Irish maul minced the blacks.
A ripple of fear went around the few people not following Conor Murray’s gleeful dive over the New Zealand try line as Sexton went down clutching his leg. Heroically rose up to add two points. Cramp took him after an hour as the boy wonder arrived.
Conor Murray 10
That hit on Julian Savea, ramming ‘The Bus’ off the road, gives the Murray clan a performance they can savour forever. Directed his pack around the park while his try, which he created by grabbing bouncing ball above all others, was from a lovely, sneaky dummy. Then there was his beautiful three pointer. To hell with a few wayward box kicks.
Jack McGrath 8
Rory Best 8
A flanker, a hooker, a captain all out on his own now. Knew not to harass Mathieu Raynal even when the referee was making incorrect decisions. Played until he couldn’t move and now he stands alone. 10 tackles, a million breakdowns.
World Rugby just announced that Choke Tackles, henceforth, are to be known as Furlongs. Confirmation of his arrival as the Ireland tighthead, even if he needs a season or so to grow into the jersey, was evident with solid scrummaging and ruck clearing.
Donnacha Ryan 8
Needed to do a Paul O’Connell impersonation but this was all Ryan, all his best traits, physicality, athleticism until he made way on 64 minutes for the future, whose name is Ultan.
Devin Toner 8
Where to start? Maybe it was the 68th minute tackle in open field or his lineout superiority or beacon crown as the All Black maul tried to destroy his pack. Because it is Toner’s pack now. A great journey to witness.
CJ Stander 9
Best Irish forward on the field. How on earth did the Springboks let him come north? They knew about him, said he should be a hooker because six foot two isn’t tall enough. Carried into and under Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino. Only elite can backrowers do that. Not tall enough. Hilarious.
Gone for months. In terrible agony when going down after 25 minutes so very difficult to accurately rate his performance. Was growing into an ultra-physical battle. A try scorer at least.
Of course he did 80 minutes when Ireland finally beat the All Blacks. The captain at the end, his pick and switch for Henshaw’s try will live up there alongside his French try in 2009. “It’s a tough game,” he told Raynal when the French man complained about Irish players eating up the clock.
The Ultan Dillane carry. The Joey Carbery (Ireland player No. 1,081) touch finder. The Joey Carbery conversion. Everything Josh van der Flier did over the ball in the face of vicious resistance. Finlay Bealham, Cian Healy and Sean Cronin keeping up the intensity.
Well, he did it. The master and his assistants have presented the Irish public with the most finely tuned international team the island has ever known. It is not about the individual. Calls himself a “plastic Paddy.” No sir.