Com­po­sure sees ABS snatch a win

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - By STEVEN SA­MUELS

Af­ter a two-year ab­sence of All Black tests, Christchurch fi­nally saw in­ter­na­tional rugby at its best on Satur­day night.

De­spite freez­ing tem­per­a­tures the sold-out sta­dium held more than 21,000 hardy souls.

The All Blacks had much the same line- up as last week. The , the only ex­cep­tion was Adam Thom­son re­plac­ing the in­jured Vic­tor Vito on the blind­side flank.

The Ir­ish were boosted by the re­turn of two vet­eran players, prop Mike Ross back into the front row and sec­ond-five Gor­don D’Arcy re­sum­ing his part­ner­ship with Brian O’Driscoll in the mid-field.

The Ir­ish dom­i­nated early ter­ri­tory and pos­ses­sion, and shocked the All Blacks with hard run­ning and quick ball dis­tri­bu­tion from the ruck.

Af­ter a strong Ir­ish rolling maul col­lapsed, half­back Conor Mur­ray spied a gap and darted in for the opening try, con­verted by first-five Johnny Sex­ton.

The Ir­ish sup­port­ers were vo­cal in their ju­bi­la­tion but was this the re­sult of the rugby or the Guin­ness?

Ei­ther way, they were hav­ing a great time as large ar­eas of green stood out from the sea of black.

A few min­utes later, Johnny Sex­ton kicked a penalty mak­ing the score 10- 0. Sud­denly the All Blacks were look­ing frail.

But they re­sponded with three Dan Carter penal­ties through­out the rest of the half.

Half­time and it was 10 - 9 to the Celts.

Stern words must have been spo­ken dur­ing the break be­cause the All Blacks re­turned to the field with steely looks in their eyes.

Shortly af­ter the break, Aaron Smith man­aged to dot down for the try which gave New Zealand the lead for the first time in the game.

For the next 10 to 15 min­utes the game was tit­for- tat with nei­ther side gain­ing as­cen­dancy.

Sex­ton kicked a penalty mak­ing it 16 - 13 to New Zealand.

A big turn­ing point came when Owen Franks was re­placed by brother Ben in the front row.

The Ir­ish scrum started to dom­i­nate, shunt­ing Ben back­wards on oc­ca­sions, re­main­ing in the as­cen- dancy game.

An­other Carter penalty took the score to 19 - 13. Sex­ton replied with an­other penalty: 19 - 16.

With the Ir­ish hot on at­tack in the mid­dle of our 22, Ben Franks came from an off- side po­si­tion and kicked the ball away from the Ir­ish maul, right in front of the posts, al­low­ing Ire­land to tie up the game.

The next big mo­ment in the game was when Is­rael Dagg kicked the ball to the op­pos­ing full­back, fol­lowed through and charged late into the full­back, af­ter the ball had been kicked.

It was an in­cred­i­bly stupid time to do this with only eight min­utes left and be­ing re­duced to 14 men af­ter the yel­low card.

Watch­ing Johnny Sex­ton set up for the kick, I thought: ‘‘This is a young player’s chance to make his­tory and for­ever be re­mem­bered as a na­tional hero’’.

But the kick sailed past the posts in­stead of through them.

It was a very test­ing kick in the con­di­tions.

The Ir­ish had a scrum inside the All Black’s half, and ref­eree Nigel Owens ruled that Ire­land had

for

the

rest

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the de­lib­er­ately wheeled the scrum around giv­ing New Zealand a penalty.

From there, Carter kicked down-field for the li­ne­out, which the ABs won.

They moved to­wards the posts for the drop goal at­tempt.

Carter’s first at­tempt wasn’t so good but luck­ily it came off an Ir­ish hand, mean­ing we had a 5m scrum and an­other chance.

Af­ter a cou­ple of pick and goes, Carter dropped back into the pocket, Weepu sent the ball to him and this time he calmly slot­ted the drop goal.

The All Blacks were very re­lieved to keep their 100-year un­beaten record against the men from the Emer­ald Isle.

I felt that Ire­land had played the bet­ter rugby and at least de­served a draw.

It was clear by the dis­ap­point­ment on Brian O’Driscoll’s face how dev­as­tated they were.

They had come so close to their first vic­tory.

Ire­land has to take this dis­ap­point­ment and use it as mo­ti­va­tion for this com­ing Satur­day’s game in Hamil­ton.

One of the pos­i­tives for the All Blacks was the way they man­aged to grind their way to a hard-fought vic­tory, never pan­ick­ing.

They just fo­cused on get­ting into a po­si­tion from where the game could be won.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to Sam Cane on mak­ing his test de­but, co­in­ci­den­tally at the same age and against the same op­po­nents as one Richard H McCaw in 2001.

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