Monday, June 9, 2008

All Blacks vs Ireland First Test - AKA What the F*** Happened?

On a cold, wet night in the capital, Henry's Heroes lined up against the keen-spirited (but seemingly feeling the early effects of pneunomia) Irish.

Congratulations to all involved. For the first 60 minutes the All Blacks played like a bunch of fourth formers (sorry, year 10) selected for the first XV. The fire and enthusiasm was there, but the combinations weren't firing, the kicks were more for territory than exciting play, passes weren't sticking, penalties and possesion were going to the Irish. Who played exceptionally gritty, unrelenting football.

It is worth noting that the Irish are by no means a mediocre, weak nation. By playing the first test of the season against them, which is historically a fixture reserved for a Pacific nation for the very reason I just outlined - it allows the team room to get into the flow of things and gain confidence - The NZRU played a game of Russian roulette. The media would not let a loss go down lightly and in turn more fans would be lost. Or at least, thats the way journalists would spin it.

But both teams held together. Conrad Smith proved suprisingly elusive in what may have been his best professional game to date, McCaw was, as always, dominating at the breakdown and So'oialo again showed his talent in covering number 6.
The team escaped with only Afoa injured, although Carter may be a bit staggered by his goal-kicking stats on the night.

If fans were to be gained, we would have needed to win this by 30 or more points. But those who watched the game would agree any team would have struggled to beat an on form Irish team in the rain that night.

Final score 21 - 11.