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Aisle be Back: All Blacks v Ireland 2.0

  • By Kevin McCarthy

As Napoleon once apparently said, the greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory. And he hadn’t even watched the first test.

Last week, I sort of predicted Ireland could go 5-zip on their tour of New Zealand, so with two down, three to go, I guess I better stick with that.

This weekend in Dunedin however is I suspect the biggest chance the Irish will have.

Yes, losing 42-19 was a thumping on the scoreboard. But as an Irish column I read put it, it was going so well until it all went a***,

In the fashion of the hot take, immediately some were viewing this as the All Blacks silencing the doubters, and regaining their mojo etc etc.

And fair play, that was the best out of the blocks performance for years by the side. Even inspiring lunatic ideas that the team was better off without its (covid-isolated) coaches.

But one win does not a season make, and the second test should show us whether anyone is drinking too much Kool-Aid for this time of the morning.

While it’s the sort of thing a drowning fan clings to, Ireland did of course match the All Blacks in the second half, 14-all. They could have in a slightly different space-time continuum have scored twice more and been within breathing distance of a win.

Of course, the All Blacks would in all likelihood have responded differently if Ireland had been able to do so, and I don’t think there was ever any doubt that the match was going to slip from their grasp.

That can be laid, as we know, at the door of that slightly less than 20 minute period where the All Blacks rather dissected some Irish frailties and piled on four tries. You could argue the intercept was luck, though it was born of pressure, as typically they are.

But the Irish did not fold miserably as some of their predecessors would have. They are obviously well organised and possessed of a potent attack. Their set pieces were vulnerable, and as the All Blacks can attest, that is no platform from which to chase a match.

I have a niggling thought that this feels a bit like the post-match of the first test against the Lions, where New Zealand rather stunned by taking on the supposed BIL strength up front.

The second test became quite different however, especially once the SBW red card turned into a losing battle of survival.

Which is a way of saying that what works once is rarely effective a second time. So, the winning New Zealand tactics up front and out back will have to adapt as fast as any Irish counter this weekend.

In some ways, I am reassured that the team is largely unchanged this weekend. With Covid and concussion intervening, it probably tempered any instinct to fiddle.

Let the blokes who did the job last week have a chance to finish said job this Saturday.

Quinn Tupaea is a case in point. He’s done very little wrong since debuting last year and quite a bit that is very good. Yet the popular impulse was that David Havili would reclaim his spot. To which the question would be, why?

Will Jordan on the bench. Well, why not? Can’t say the Irish will fancy chasing that will of the wisp with 20 minutes to go.

So, to wrap up, plenty to enjoy last week. Plenty to savour this weekend.  And regardless, get yourself to the stadium to cheer on the mighty Maori next week.

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