Sexton, helped by O'Mahony and Doris, lead Ireland to well-deserved win over All Blacks

Apart from the sin-binning’s and red card the massive difference between this week's victory and last weeks loss was Ireland reducing their error count and New Zealand increasing theirs.
Sexton, helped by O'Mahony and Doris, lead Ireland to well-deserved win over All Blacks

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton, center, passes the ball during their second rugby union international match against New Zealand in Dunedin, New Zealand, Saturday, July 9, 2022. (Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP)

"ONE small step for Irish sport, one giant leap for Irish rugby."

On the evidence of last week’s loss, I didn’t think a win was going to materialise on this tour, but on this occasion I am so happy to be wrong.

It may have taken 117 years of trying, but now that it’s arrived it must be celebrated and whilst the IRFU have many faults, on this occasion they need to be applauded for putting in place the systems that allowed this Irish squad to create history.

Yes, there may have been some extraordinary circumstances that led to Ireland achieving their first ever victory on New Zealand soil, but no one, and I mean no one can say that Ireland were not the best side on the day.

It needed to be perfect and whilst no team will thankfully ever be capable of ever producing a full 80 minutes of faultlessness, Johnny Sexton and his players certainly started this game as if that was their intention.

Just like last week Ireland laid down a very early marker in this game as if their very lives depended on them setting a positive foundation and when on the second minute Andrew Porter hurtled his way over the All Blacks white wash and Sexton added the extras, you would have to say that Ireland's footing was rock solid and the pathway to creating history was well signposted.

New Zealand's George Bower with Josh van der Flier of Ireland
New Zealand's George Bower with Josh van der Flier of Ireland

However, when you play against any All Black side there will always be doubts until the final whistle is sounded and what transpired in the first half of this game will be a lesson for all those who play against the Blacks to take on board.

Two fully deserved yellow cards and one red issued in the direction of the men in black should have led to Ireland heaping a whole pile of points on their hosts, but that was not to be and through some furious tackling and some silly unforced errors by Ireland the Blacks managed to keep the score board from ticking over and got to the half time dressing room chasing a seven points to ten deficit.

Sexton and co would have learned a very costly lesson during last week’s loss and just how devastating and ruthless the All Blacks can be by scoring four unanswered try’s in eighteen minutes so, whatever message Andy Farrell and his coaches depicted during the break you can be sure it revolved around maintaining pressure and keeping focused on the job at hand.

I don’t think I can ever recall seeing any All Black side make so many unforced errors, however I fully believe that errors are made as a result of external influences and lack of concentration. 

So, when you see an All Black dropping passes, missing tackles and failing to break the gain line, you can be guaranteed that it is a result of them coming under a unfamiliar pressure, and pressure placed on them by a side who have the ability to remain loyal to a game plan that is devised to be as forward moving as possible.

Ireland's Mack Hansen
Ireland's Mack Hansen

Apart from the sin-binning’s and red card the massive difference between this week's victory and last weeks loss was Ireland reducing their error count and New Zealand increasing theirs.

Great sides have the ability to strike from anywhere on the field and during this test Ireland rarely gave their hosts any opportunities to pounce, and even when they did make a mistake they were clued in enough to realise that they had to change focus immediately and switch from attack to defence without breaking stride.

There was also a massive improvement in the returns that Ireland achieved from their own set pieces and when your backs are assured of a solid and swift supply of ball in these areas, it is always easier to make it in and beyond the all-important gain line.

The only word I can use to describe Johnny Sexton's contribution in this game is, sublime.

Not only does the Leinster man have the ability to lead his players into areas of fruitfulness with his general play, he also has the capacity to bring a certain level of composure and calmness to all those who are guided by him.

Maybe it’s the level of belief that he plays with or maybe it’s his proficiency with how he plays, but whatever it is Ireland are a completely different side when the number ten jersey is worn by someone else.

I could go on and on about each and every player that played in this historical game, but I wouldn’t have enough column space to laud them all however, three players that I would like to mention are Peter O’Mahony and Caelan Doris.

New Zealand's Folau Fakatava
New Zealand's Folau Fakatava

When your backs are firmly nailed to the wall and the only way of surviving is by stepping outside the box of conformity and putting your body on the line not just once or twice, but for the entirety of a game, there are very few who are prepared to do so, but not Doris or O’Mahony.

Tadgh Byrne must get special mention too. He hasn’t had much game time recently and looked rusty last week. This week he delivered massive go forward momentum at crucial times.

This now sets us up for historic test series decider next week, expect fireworks.

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