Ireland (6) 9
PEN: Johnny Sexton, Paddy Jackson (2).
New Zealand (14) 21
TRY: Malakai Fekitoa (2), Beauden Barrett. CON: Beauden Barrett (3).

Just as there was extreme overreaction to Ireland’s historic win against New Zealand in Chicago, so has there been an equal amount of hysteria over this defeat at the Aviva Stadium. 

Dirty, cheating, b@$tards appears to be the predominant complaint from the “big match eventers” and with New Zealand conceding fourteen penalties to Ireland’s four and having two players yellow carded, and two subsequent citings,  to Ireland’s none there appears to be some cause for complaint! 

Now, New Zealand have always “played the game on the edge of the laws”, in the time honoured sports parlance of their apologists or, put another way, they have been the world’s number one institutionalised cheats in the eyes of their detractors; but I’d guess, deep down, that even they have a grudging respect for their unfailing ability to do what needs to be done, by fair means or foul, to grind out the win. 

The statistics from this match are truly remarkable, Ireland enjoyed 66% possession and 70% territory, but yet they walked out of the stadium with nothing. More worryingly they scored zero tries to New Zealand’s three despite having the ball twice as often and twice as long in the right areas and for one quarter of the match Ireland had an extra player, yet still failed to find the line. 

This is what should be worrying Schmidt as he reviews the match tapes and he should also question his selection policy of starting Sean O’Brien instead of the excellent Josh van der Flyer, with O’Brien targeted from the kick off, his failure to gather ultimately leading to New Zealand’s first score on the third minute. O’Brien had a generally good game but his failure to take the kick off, compounded by Murray kicking away a subsequent turn over, led to Malakai Fekitoa stretching for the line for the opening score with New Zealand having to do very little. Beauden Barrett converted and New Zealand led 0 – 7. 

Ireland responded well with O’Brien and then CJ Stander held up over the line before Johnny Sexton took the opportunity to kick a penalty to put Ireland on the scoreboard on the 10th minute. However their chances took a significant downturn shortly after when Robbie Henshaw was taken off after an “alleged assault” by Sam Cane which has subsequently been referred by the citing commissioner. No significant action taken by the officials at the time; though it was the end of Henshaws game and he was replaced by Garry Ringrose. 

The youngster could only stand and watch, from the wrong side of the scrum, as Barrett scythed through a Henshaw sized hole in the Irish midfield minutes later for New Zealand’s second try, though it was also filled with controversy with Sexton looking to have prevented the touchdown. However, it was ruled OK, and Sexton escaped a yellow card for a high tackle. Barrett converted and at 3 – 14 it looked a long way back for Ireland with the game not yet out of the first quarter. 

The controversy continued with Aaron Smith yellow carded for offside and Sexton departed with a hamstring injury. Paddy Jackson, on for Sexton kicked the penalty to the corner but New Zealand forced a penalty at the line out and the ball was cleared. 

Ireland sent in wave after wave in Smith’s absence but only came away with a Jackson penalty and it was probably during this period when the game was lost with Ireland having the upper hand in the scrums but failed to take advantage. 

The game settled down somewhat and the teams turned round with New Zealand leading 6 – 14.

The next score was going to be crucial but Jackson’s 58th penalty was a measly return for another period of intense Irish pressure after Malakai Fekitoa was yellow carded for another “alleged assault” by the All Blacks, this time on Simon Zebo. O’Brien and then Rob Kearney butchering scoring chances before Jackson knocked over the pen. 

However at 9 – 14 and over twenty minutes to go there was still plenty to play for, well, until the returning Fekitoa went over for his second score on the 66th minute. Again it caused plenty of controversy with a couple of passes looking to be forward but all that matters is that it was awarded and New Zealand opened a comfortable lead at 9 – 21 after Barrett converted. 

The game drained out of Ireland and New Zealand held on for the controversial win. 

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Josh van der Flier, Kieran Marmion, Paddy Jackson, Garry Ringrose.

#SUFTUM