New Zealand sneak past gallant Ireland

 

New Zealand 22 Ireland 19:A magnificent Irish performance – extracted from a severe beating last week and in the 50th week of an unrelenting season with an injury disrupted team – came within fractions of the most famous Irish win in history against the world champions.

It was a night for hard, direct rugby and high passion. Heroes abounded, not least the front-row, where Cian Healy, Rory Best and Mike Ross, effectively playing his first match in a month, had the All Blacks scrum in heaps of trouble in the last quarter.

There was also plenty of attacking intent and shape, mixed with pragmatic rugby for although the rains and winds relented from lunchtime, the pill was still greasy and bombs were indeed a weapon. Julian Savea, hat-trick hero last week was targeted with some success by a couple of Murray box kicks; both higher and not as long as a couple last week.

In that and other respects too the selection of 23-year-old Murray was entirely vindicated, not least by his first test try ion this his 11th test. Strong pressure and good hard carries were rewarded with a penalty in the corner against Owen Franks going off his feet and Brian O’Driscoll asked Jonathan Sexton to kick for the corner.

A controlled, leg-pumping maul was held up just short, Murray feinting to the open side, going blind and dipping over Tony Woodcock’s tackle to dot down on the line.

Conducted in the corner where many of a sizeable Irish contingent was congregated in this throbbing, hastily rebuilt old rugby league stadium, that had some of the displaced diaspora in good voice: as did Sexton’s well struck conversion and an ensuing penalty after one of those Murray box kicks at Savea, Rory Best earning a penalty against Richie McCaw for not releasing.

This followed a succession of big hits – Rory Best and Kevin McLaughlin amongst them – and then Jamie Heaslip and Donnacha Ryan on Savea (Heaslip ripping the ball of him) before a huge kick by O’Driscoll and a big tackle by Sexton on Zac Guildford.

But Ireland again couldn’t deal with Dan Carter’s left to right re-starts toward Kieron Read, which helped the All Blacks gain possession and waves of attacks.

Ireland’s tackling was excellent, but breakdown penalties against Rory Best, Dan Tuohy and Mike Ross, enabled Carter to trim the lead before the break before landing one short from just inside half-way with the last kick of the half.

Furthermore, his second-half restart up the middle was claimed by McCaw and in this ensuing wave Sonny Bill Williams injected momentum by slipping out of O’Driscoll’s tackle and Aaron Smith was driven over the line despite the best efforts of Murray and Andrew Trimble.

McCaw couldn’t hold Sexton’s re-start – Ireland’s first of the night – and in their ensuing wave Adam Thomson went off his feet for Sexton to trim New Zealand’s lead to 16-13.

Carter missed a drop goal but with O’Brien being held off the ball he attacked the gain line and offloaded to Guidlford in the ensuing gap before O’Brien was harshly pinged for briefly slipping off his feet. Carter made it 19-13.

However, the importance of attacking restarts was underlined when Kearney chased and claimed O’Gara’s dink up the middle and a huge Irish scrum was rewarded with another Sexton penalty to make it 19-16.

With Ronan O’Gara by now on for an injured Gordon D’Arcy, there was a menacing intent to Ireland’s attacking shape and after O’Driscoll again, and O’Brien charged up the middle, Ali Williams tripped Eoin Reddan at the base and slapped O’Brien in the face to concede another ten metres.He was lucky not to be binned, but Sexton drew the sides level with 15 minutes remaining. Only the Irish fans were on the feet.

Peter O’Mahony, off the bench, claimed Carter’s restart too, which was backed up by another big scrum. This wasn’t going according to the script, and further evidence that the ABs were rattled occurred when Israel Dagg followed up his own kick and was both late and high on Rob Kearney. A yellow card followed, although Sexton’s 50 metre penalty fell short.

Ultimately the game hinged on an All Blacks’ scrum – now very much under the kosh – about 35 metres out. Cian Healy clearly got the shove on Ben Franks, whom he had mastered from the moment of his introduction, and as the scrum wheeled most referees would have awarded a turnover scrum or perhaps a reset.

Instead, he awarded an All Blacks penalty; they went up the line, went through the phases but, off an awful Piri Weepu pass, Carter’s right footed drop goal drifted wide. Unfortunately after a slight deflection off the charging O’Brien, who was again heroic, the home side was awarded a five metre scrum.

McCaw carried off the base and time Weepu located Carter and he drilled the winning drop goal through the posts with 40 seconds remaining.

Scoring sequence:11 mins Murray try, Sexton con 0-7;19mins: Sexton pen, 0-10; 22 mins: Carter pen, 3-10; 30 mins: Carter pen, 6-10; 34 mins: Carter pen, 9-10; Half-time 9-10. 43 mins: Smith try, Carter con, 16-10; 45 mins: Sexton pen, 16-13; 58 mins: Carter pen, 19-13; 64 mins: Sexton pen, 19-16; 69 mins: Sexton pen 19-19; 80 mins: Carter drop goal 22-19.

New Zealand:I Dagg (Canterbury Crusaders); Z Guildford (Canterbury Crusaders), C Smith (Wellington Hurricanes), S B Williams (Waikato Chiefs), J Savea (Wellington Hurricanes); D Carter (Canterbury Crusaders), A Smith (Otago Highlanders); T Woodcock (Auckland Blues), A Hore (Otago Highlanders), O Franks (Canterbury Crusaders), B Retallick (Waikato Chiefs), S Whitelock (Canterbury Crusaders), A Thomson (Otago Highlanders), R McCaw (Canterbury Crusaders, capt), K Read (Canterbury Crusaders). Replacements:S Cane (Waikato Chiefs) for Read (half-time), B Franks (Canterbury Crusaders) for O Franks (58 mins), A Williams (Auckland Blues) for Retallick, P Weepu (Auckland Blues) for A Smith (both 65 mins), B Smith (Otago Highlanders) for Savea (74 mins). Not used:H Elliot (Waikato Chiefs), A Cruden (Waikato Chiefs).

Ireland:R Kearney (UCD/Leinster); F McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster), B O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster, capt), G D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), A Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster); J Sexton (St Mary’s College/Leinster), C Murray (Garryowen/ Munster); C Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), R Best (Banbridge/Ulster), M Ross (Clontarf/Leinster)/D Fitzpatrick (Dungannon/Ulster), D Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster), D Ryan (Shannnon/Munster), K McLaughlin (St Mary’s College/Leinster), S O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), J Heaslip (Naas/Leinster). Replacements:D O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster) for Tuohy (58 mins), P O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) for McLaughlin (62 mins), E Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Murray (65 mins), R O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster) for D’Arcy (51 mins). Not used:S Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster), S Cronin (St Mary’s College/Leinster), D Fitzpatrick (Dungannon/Ulster),

Referee:Nigel Owens (Wales).

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