New Zealand scraped across the line in this second of three tests to get a less than convincing victory over Ireland in an emotional encounter in Christchurch as international rugby returned to the area for the first time since the tragic earthquakes.
The visitors started the game much faster than their hosts, and signaled their intentions when they turned down an early kickable penalty and opted to go for the corner. The gamble paid off and after a maul resulting from the lineout was dragged down just short of the line; scrum half Connor Murray was on hand to dart over from close range and Ireland took the lead.
10 minutes later Jonny Sexton slotted a tricky penalty to send his team into a shock 0 – 10 lead after 20 minutes.
Then Ireland gave away a series of silly penalties at the breakdown allowing Dan Carter to chip away at their lead.
The majority of the half was played largely between the to 22 metre lines with New Zealand dominating possession without creating any real clear cut chances, which is very uncharacteristic of them.
However Carter punished Ireland time and time again and the All Blacks went in at half time trailing by just 1 point at 9 – 10.
New Zealand got off to the best possible start in the second half. They managed to get their offloads going and picked well around the fringes which eventually resulted in Aaron Smith being bundled over by his forwards to send the hosts into the lead.
Sexton and Carter then traded penalties with Ireland seemingly in the ascendancy; they attacked hard and battered the New Zealand defensive line but were limited to penalties. Ireland were also solid on the defensive side of things with Dan Carter resorting to attempting drop goals which is testament to the tenacious defence of the Celts.
The scores were level at 19 a piece heading in to the final 10 minutes of the game when Israel Dagg was sin binned for a late tackle on Ireland full back Rob Kearney which was the correct decision, the world champions looked rattled and Ireland looked the more likely.
New Zealand managed the final minutes in a professional manner and worked the ball into drop goal range. Carter was handed a second chance after his first drop goal attempt was charged down ending up over the dead ball line and he didn’t miss the second time around from the resulting 5 metre scrum to get the All Blacks over the line to win 22 – 19.
Ireland will be bitterly disappointed that they didn’t manage to capitalize on a great opportunity to beat the AB’s for the first time in 107 years. They dominated large parts of the game and had their hosts rattled. However New Zealand proved that great teams can get the win when not at their best, and that’s exactly what they did.
Despite the loss Ireland can be proud of their performance, which was hugely improved from last weeks shambles, they definitely deserved something out of the game and will be looking for revenge in the final test next week.