I hated losing, but I loved weeks like this. Your back is against the wall, you’re a long way from home and people are writing you off. There are only upsides from here.
This Irish team are defiant, they love being underdogs and putting it up to teams like this. It’s exciting for them.
If they can get their preparation right, they can learn a lot from Saturday. There’s a blueprint there to beat the All Blacks.
That might seem crazy after the 42-19 defeat at Eden Park, but as they sit down for their video review this morning, they’ll know that there are clear and defined areas that they can fix themselves and, if they get it right, they can level the series in Dunedin.
It’s 1-0, you’re done with fortress Eden Park and, most importantly, there was evidence that your plan works when you’re accurate.
A major issue for Ireland was the lack of reward they got out of that impressive first quarter.
They started perfectly, but when you play the All Blacks you need a cushion. One score is never enough.
Whether they create it or sniff out an opportunity from your error, they are ruthless.
There were a few intercepts and that will come up in the team review, a seven-point swing is a lot in these games.
As well as being a lethal attacking force, New Zealand give you nothing in attack – they’re tough to break down.
So, when the players dominated the first quarter and looked up at the scoreboard and saw it was only 5-0, they knew it wasn’t enough.
Even if they’d taken one more opportunity, they’d have been in such a stronger position – from a mental point of view it makes that chat under the posts after Jordie Barrett’s try easier. There’s no need to panic.
The amalgamation of that first try, losing Johnny Sexton to that really unlucky injury when he slipped going into Sam Cane’s tackle and then Sevu Reece running the length of the pitch; it’s a lot to deal with very quickly.
The crowd suddenly isn’t quiet anymore, it’s just really hard to get that momentum back.
What worked? Well, Ireland attacked a lot of short sides, took the ball to the edges and made a lot of inroads.
Once the All Blacks got their tails up they had the momentum and the error count started creeping up uncharacteristically; dropped balls, lineouts not going to hand that should have.
They didn’t look themselves.
They had 20 minutes where they showed that they are very competitive and they know what they need to work on.
They just need to tighten up a few inaccuracies, one or two bits in the lineout in particular.
Most of their errors came during that 20 minutes before half-time when they conceded those quick tries and lost their captain.
It’s tough when the other team get on a roll, particularly when they’re the All Blacks. Flip it and it’s the same, if Ireland had been under the pump and scored a couple of runaway tries New Zealand would feel similarly.
It’s easy for me to say now I’m retired, but it’s about staying in the moment and focusing on the next ball.
They weren’t too far behind, but they started chasing a little and that’s what they need to address.
Sometimes you just need to be smart to stem the flow of momentum during those moments.
Midway through the second half Ireland were pounding the New Zealand line and the penalties were racking up.
The result wasn’t in doubt, but they were desperate to keep their lead and when Karl Dickson warned the captain Ardie Savea about the mounting penalty count he took his chance.
He asked the referee could he have a moment to talk to his team and he gathered the troops around him. It gave them 30, 40 seconds of a breather, a chance to gather their thoughts and get set. Maybe Ireland needed that when the game got frantic.
You just want someone to grab the ball, take a second. Maybe kick to the corner, slowly walk to the lineout and have a little huddle.
Sexton was off the field at that stage, but there’s a lot of very mature, seasoned players there.
I can understand that they’re chasing a lead, they want to get back into it and they don’t want to go away from the game-plan that worked so well.
The scrum is an obvious cause for concern. It’s a big, physical pack in black and they’ve a loaded bench.
You miss Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy wasn’t used after his injury last Wednesday and they’re short. We’ve a world-class starting front-row, but beneath that there’s a drop off and that’s an area of concern.
The All Blacks will be licking their lips for Test two, thinking they can get after us there.
The pack weights they show on the TV are never that reliable, but the All Blacks looked bigger.
With as many scrums as there are in the game, it takes a toll.
Andrew Porter will be struggling after going 80 minutes in such a physical game, it stretches you a bit thin.
He dug in, he played well but it’s tough playing that long and then facing a set of fresh legs coming off the bench.
At this stage, we don’t know if Johnny will be available but Joey Carbery went well last weekend and his mindset this week must be about the opportunity that awaits.
Some people might look at it from the perspective of Johnny’s absence, but for Joey it’s a case of seizing the moment and saying ‘I’ve been waiting my whole life to get this opportunity. We’re playing the All Blacks on their patch, we just got beaten pretty badly; I can be the absolute man for Ireland’.
That’s what they need from him.
He’s surrounded by good leaders. Peter O’Mahony will be vocal, Garry Ringrose will lead the backs, Tadhg Furlong will step up with the scrum fixes.
It’s individual accountability now, you can sit down and take another beating next week or you can step up.
I believe the lads will bounce back and we’ll have a serious Test on our hands.