Ireland Vs New Zealand Review
So for the 2nd time in the Joe Schmidt era Ireland defeated New Zealand 16-9 on Saturday evening at the Aviva Stadium , the first time Ireland have beaten New Zealand on home soil. Some will see this as a marker for the World Cup in 2019 and while it is a good barometer, we have been here before and the results at World Cup time have not matched up to the results and good performances of the years leading into a World Cup but that result on Saturday seemed slightly different and could just be the key moment leading to the World Cup.
The game on Saturday was again like most previous games against New Zealand, tough and uncompromising but even before a ball was kicked Ireland started to show something different by advancing on the Haka, even though it was only a small step forward , they said to New Zealand today is going to be different.
It turned out that way and for only the 2nd time in 30 attempts Ireland downed New Zealand but on this occasion New Zealand’s media cannot say that there famed All Blacks were missing key men because they were in a position to select a strong XV with only Sonny Bill Williams ruled out through injury. Steve Hansen has now stated that Ireland are the “number one side” in World Rugby, it is a lovely sentiment but not true because New Zealand are still the World Cup holders.
Getting to the game, Ireland went out with a similar game plan to recent times where they strangled New Zealand at the break down and even though New Zealand constantly slowed down Irish ball by having at least two bodies collapse on the ball as Kieran Marmion was trying to release the ball to Jonathan Sexton and further out along his back line.
At half time, the penalty count was 9-1 in favour of Ireland and yet even though the penalty count was so high against New Zealand , Wayne Barnes did not reach for his pocket even after what seemed like a professional foul from Sam Whitelock where he slapped the ball downward to deny Ireland the chance to build an attack.
Even though Rob Kearney may have also seen yellow for his challenge on Reiko Ioane, Barnes deemed it to be a fair contest in the air and nothing was awarded. You could again see how far New Zealand are willing to push the boundaries on the field of play.
The try to that would eventually see Ireland home along with the conversion from Jonathan Sexton was converted by Jacob Stockdale who scored his 12th try in 14 games for Ireland that is a terrific strike rate although his defence still needs work but that will come in time.
It was a move we have seen before in the win over England back in March, were all the moving parts need to be on the same page and that was the case on Saturday when Stockdale chipped over the defence and chased his kick down then he re gathered his kick on and despite the despairing tackle from Aaron Smith he used his momentum to crash over for the vital score.
The Irish performance was full of purpose and men like Peter O Mahony , James Ryan , Devin Toner and Rob Kearney stood up and were counted. Guys like Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose and Keith Earls did very well in defence. This was one of the best single performances in recent times by Ireland.
The key now for Ireland is to make sure that all this good will and momentum is carried into the Six Nations of 2019 and then try and surpass the past results at World Cup time. That will be the tricky bit and after this November schedule is complete this weekend after the game with the USA , we will then wait to see what will Joe Schmidt do next , will he sign a new deal or indicate he will move on after the 2019 World Cup. Only time will tell and this is a situation he will need time to sort out before making an announcement.
It’s the USA next on Saturday evening and then no matter the result, it will be full steam ahead to defend the 6 Nations title…. That is the way Joe Schmidt will want it and who are we to argue…..