Testing times

 

Player by player analysis following three-Test series

Rob Kearney (Played three).

Was given more work defensively in the first and third Tests than he was in the entire Six Nations, saving a brace of tries in the first game, and despite looking utterly frustrated somehow managed to maintain his quality and energy in a rapidly sinking ship.

Fergus McFadden (Played three, one try).

One of the Ireland’s two try scorers constituted a rare high. His willingness cannot be faulted but was left horribly exposed in both Tests, especially the first. Scarred by this experience, would probably be better at centre.

Brian O’Driscoll (three).

Off the pace and out of position in the first Test, barnstorming in the second, a rare bad day in the third when his offloads looked forced in Ireland’s underdeveloped offloading game. This time leaves NZ with mental scars but will bounce back.

Keith Earls (two).

Ireland’s most threatening runner performed credibly in the first Test, missed the second with a pectoral tear, recovered to reluctantly play on the left, and Saturday’s experience won’t have endeared him to the position.

Gordon D’Arcy (one).

Stepped into the breach for the second Test in Earls’ absence, tackled (Sonny Bill Williams was largely nullified) and passed especially well, and allowed O’Driscoll to rediscover his mojo – which he might have anyway – before a groin injury ended his tour. Wow, was he missed.

Paddy Wallace (one).

Pitched into the third Test three days after answering an SOS from his family holidays in Portugal and struggled to cope with the high intensity and tempo the All Blacks set. Drew the shortest straw of all.

Darren Cave (0 +1R).

A trying eight minutes with the game long since up in Eden Park, during which he conceded a penalty for tugging off the ball and was sucked in for Conrad Smith’s try. Needs to learn from this experience.

Simon Zebo (one).

A real talent with pace and strength to burn, and an eye for the try line who has made rapid strides this season, but exposed to this level in the first Test when he missed four tackles. Needs to make this a huge benchmark in his career, and improve his conditioning and defence.

Andrew Trimble (one +1R).

Didn’t show the same footwork and elusiveness as he did on last visit here three years ago and hasn’t been in the best of form but was reasonably effective in the second Test and can feel aggrieved at his treatment. Why on earth wasn’t he played on the right wing even once?

Jonathan Sexton (three, 19pts)

Tackled superbly in the first two Tests and actually sharpened his restarts (eh, he had plenty of practice), his goalkicking was superb but rarely kicked tactically or varied his game, though you felt sorry for him as the ship sank around him. Also will have been scarred by this.

Ronan O’Gara (0+3R).

If the first Test was being thrown onto a sinking ship, the third was already sunk. In between he changed up Ireland’s game nicely in the last half-hour in Christchurch. Physically on the back foot last Saturday, he looked utterly fed up by the end.

Conor Murray (three, 1 try).

Responded to limited first appearance punctuated by over-long box kicks with excellent, try-scoring second Test only to revert to first Test off snail’s pace ruck ball in the third. It’s still his rookie Test season and he is the future; so should be one of the few to benefit from the investment.

Eoin Reddan ( 0+3R).

A la O’Gara, game was up in the first and third Tests, where he was exposed to the rampaging All Blacks, while quickening up the tempo effectively in the second.

Rory Best (three).

One of the better ones. His darts were good and almost blemish free the whole way through, his scrummaging was strong and his work-rate was high for the first two Tests before, like pretty much everyone, he was blown away in the third.

Seán Cronin (0 +2R)

Nine minutes as an emergency prop in the first Test with the score 35-10, a whopping 12 with the score 53-0 in the third where he showed a glimpse of his dynamic carrying (making him the team’s second highest carrier on the day!). And that’s about it folks.

Cian Healy (three).

Superb mobility, carrying and tackling all the way through really, and destroyed Ben Franks in the second Test endgame in a manner which ought to have earned a famous win, a la Australia at Eden Park. Still only 24 and would be a shoo-in for the Lions now.

Mike Ross (two).

Coped superbly in second Test comeback given it was his first full game since the Heineken Cup final, scrummaging strongly for 80 minutes, but looked off the pace in the third.

Declan Fitzpatrick (one +1R).

For all the fears, he scrummed and worked well for the first 55 minutes of the first Test to suggest props cupboard is not entirely bare, ensuring he’s an option for back-up. But needs to up conditioning further and get game time – and therein lies the rub.

Ronan Loughney ( 0 +1R)

From Barna to here is a credit to the Corinthians product and, having had his cap with an undistinguished 25 minutes in the first Test and a taste of this level, is another who needs to use this as a benchmark and up his conditioning and his game. A long way still to travel.

Dan Tuohy (three).

Off the pace in the first Test, produced a high tackle count in the second test before quickly wilting after a bright start in the third. Didn’t take his chance.

Donnacha Ryan (three).

Marshalled the lineout excellently throughout the series, tackled with agility and accuracy in the first two Tests especially, and one of the few to keep going in the third. One of the few, maybe four, shining lights who came up another notch on this tour.

Donncha O’Callaghan (0 +3R)

Made a good impact in the second Test when the match was still alive, which may have revived some of his confidence, but little chance to do so in the first or third.

Kevin McLaughlin (two +1R).

Big game in Christchurch, when his selection was fully vindicated, with hard carrying, strong tackling and effective clearing out, but strangely ineffective in the third Test.

Seán O’Brien (three).

Probably Ireland’s stand-out performer in the first two Tests, he has added another dimension to his game at the breakdown to augment his all-round ballast. Relatively nullified by the rampant collision work and counter-rucking of the ABs in the third, but all this with a hip problem that will now sideline him four months. He’ll be missed.

Jamie Heaslip (two).

Another brace of big tackling, carrying and breakdown counts for Ireland’s hardest-working and most overworked player – the fractured finger he sustained late on in the second Test ending a run of 14 successive starts this season in which he was only substituted twice.

Peter O’Mahony (two +1R)

Still only 22, has made big strides in his breakthrough season and now knows how many more strides to make at this level. Should be one of the few to benefit from the investment.

Chris Henry (0 +1R).

Only given one chance in the final Test endgame with the score 41-0. Put himself about with gusto and looked to make a positive impact.

No Test involvement: Brett Wilkinson, Mike Sherry, Mike McCarthy, Paul Marshal, Gavin Duffy

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