Monday 25 March 2019

Five talking points from Ireland's phenomenal win over the mighty All Blacks

CJ Stander of Ireland is tackled by Scott Barrett of New Zealand All Blacks during the international friendly between Ireland and New Zealand at Aviva Stadium on November 17, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CJ Stander of Ireland is tackled by Scott Barrett of New Zealand All Blacks during the international friendly between Ireland and New Zealand at Aviva Stadium on November 17, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Is there a better breakdown player out there at the moment than Peter O'Mahony? And how about Stockdale's incredible mental fortitude?

Here are five talking points from Ireland's win over the mighty All Blacks.

1. Ireland lay down World Cup marker with historic victory

It has been a long time coming but Ireland finally exorcised some of the many past demons with a first win over New Zealand on Irish soil.

Chicago was special but this felt even more so.

Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock missed that game two years ago but with their totemic locks back in the engine room, they were performed and out-classed by colossal James Ryan and Devin Toner, who set the tone early on with a ferocious tackle on Retallick.

Ireland will go to Japan next year without any fears about who they come across as they proved once again that this All Blacks team are not the immovable force they once were.

Joe Schmidt's game-plan worked a treat and the players carried it out to perfection. There were big performances all over the pack, with Ryan and Garry Ringrose absolutely immense. The bench had a big impact too as the depth in the country was again highlighted.

As for big moments? How about Johnny Sexton and Jacob Stockdale driving Ben Smith into touch in the closing stages? Sexton's reaction told you everything you needed to know about what this meant to the Ireland players.

Five years ago, they were in a similar situation at the same venue but this time there was to be no slipping up as Ireland hammered home the point that they will be contenders at the World Cup.

2. Stockdale magic brings deafening Aviva roar

It has been quite a well since the Aviva Stadium shook as it did when Jacob Stockdale dinked the ball over the sizeable frame of Brodie Retallick, regretted it and scored a sensational try.

It wasn't just an inspired moment of magic out of the top drawer, but it also highlighted Stockdale's incredible mental fortitude.

Just a couple of minuted earlier, the winger had tried the same thing only to get blocked down by Kieran Read. It would have been a certain try but for the All Blacks No 8 uncharacteristically knocking the ball on.

Stockdale knew he had gotten away with one, so to recover himself as quickly and execute the same play was stunning.

It brought the sold out crowd to their feet and the roar that followed was reminiscent of the heady days in the old Lansdowne Road.

3. Outstanding Ryan leads from the front yet again

We are quickly running out of superlatives for the freakishly good James Ryan, who continues to defy the odds by somehow getting better.

After an excellent man-of-the-match performance against Argentina last weekend, the 22-year old put in another stellar shift against the two best locks in the world.

This was billed as Ryan's chance to join the illustrious company of the likes of Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock, and while the Leinster man won't have got caught up in that kind of talk, he is rapidly becoming one of the most influential players in the game right now.

Such is Ryan's vast skill-set, he is being used more and more as a play-maker. It's easy to see why as well because his subtle touches in heavy traffic are a joy to watch.

His lines of running allied with his remarkable power in the close exchanges regularly got Ireland over the gain-line and onto the front foot.

Ryan has gone from making his debut last year to being one of the first names on the Ireland team-sheet. The only question that remains, is who partners him going forward.

PS: Is there a better breakdown player out there at the moment than Peter O'Mahony? Phenomenal.

4. Ireland get the edge at scrum time

If ever confirmation was needed, this was it: Ireland's scrum is a force to be reckoned with.

There aren't many teams who will enjoy such dominance over an All Blacks pack, but Ireland half the upper-hand at the set-piece all evening.

Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong reiterated their place as two of the world's leading props, while in between them, Rory Best added plenty at scrum time.

With Joe Moody missing through injury, Ireland went after the New Zealand front-row, which isn't something we have said too often down through the years.

For all the worries that supporters have should Joe Schmidt decide to leave after the World Cup, scrum coach Greg Feek has already confirmed that he will finish up, which is a major concern, especially given the remarkable that he was done since arriving in the country.

That Steve Hansen waited barely seven minutes of the second half to change his entire front-row told you everything you needed to know about the trouble he felt his side were in.

5. Cynical All Blacks up to their old tricks

Some things never change, eh?

Richie McCaw evidently didn't leave his invisibility cloak behind him when he retired because Wayne Barnes repeatedly penalised New Zealand for some blatant indiscipline.

The only surprise was that the finicky the English referee didn't brandish a yellow card for continuous infringements in the first half.

Part of the All Blacks' reputation is built around playing the game to the edge of the law but even by their lofty standards, some of the penalties they conceded were brainless.

A snapshot of their cynical nature was summed up in a sloppy 60-second spell midway through the first half Liam Squires was pinged for a high tackle on CJ Stander and shortly after, Sam Whitelock played the ball in an offside position.

It eventually led to Ireland scoring an easy three points but by forcing the visitors into making such rash decisions offered further proof of how rattled they were.

Most other referees you feel would have taken a more dim view and gone for the yellow card but then again, the All Blacks haven't earned the reputation as the masters of the dark arts for no reason.

That said, Rob Kearney will have breathed a massive sigh of relief at not having been sent to the sin bin for a mistimed challenge in the air on Rieko Ioane in the second half.

Online Editors

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