Ireland dominate the All Blacks in the second Test of 2022. Video/Sky Sport
If there is any consolation for the All Blacks in losing the second Test of their series against Ireland, it is that they are in no way confused or unsure where it all went wrong.
As the defeats went on, this one didn’t require a Sherlock Holmes to figure out the reasons. It was by no means a mystery and Aaron Smith was succinct and to the point in his assessment of the All Blacks shortcomings.
“Our skill execution was way off and it really cost us,” he said. “They’re a good team and they were able to turn the pressure into points.
“It was a tough old first half and I thought we were fighting hard to get back into it. Playing with 14 men is tough enough but there were a lot of things we could control like our clean up, our ball carrying and forcing things maybe that were a little off.
“They had that pressure from the scoreboard, that 10-point buffer that made us start playing a little bit more.”
If there is a second positive point to seize, it is the obvious motivation which was given to the All Blacks to decide between it.
New Zealand never wanted the third Test to be live. They wanted to tidy up Ireland in Dunedin not just to secure the series, but to make a statement. To lay down an emphatic marker of who they are and what they’re talking about.
There was also the knowledge that Ireland had never won in New Zealand and having enjoyed a string of firsts against the All Blacks in recent years, it was a piece of history the home side didn’t want. really not see it happen.
“It hurts a lot. It sucks,” All Blacks captain Sam Cane said. “But we have another test next week. It was a bit chaotic, but the leaders were focused on solutions rather than what went wrong.
“We got a little more urgent and worked hard [after being shown the red card] and did well during this time. We were happy with where we were when we came in at half-time.”
The question now for the All Blacks is whether they can regroup and rekindle a game plan that is causing Ireland greater stress than they managed in Dunedin.
For long stretches the All Blacks either didn’t have the ball or coughed it off too easily or kicked the ball badly.
Being reduced to 14 men put them at a disadvantage, but Cane, Smith and Codie Taylor were all adamant that New Zealand could still have won despite a man down.
They also tried to play down the curious loss of Ardie Savea who was sent off during the chaos when the All Blacks were yellow and red-carded.
The All Blacks believed he would be allowed to return, but officials decided he could not return – a factor which further negatively impacted the home side.
“He’s one of the best if not the best player in the world. Of course you want all your men on the pitch, but someone of that caliber you definitely want on the pitch,” Taylor said.
“I don’t know the rule and I don’t know what happened there. I was just disappointed. When we were desperate we went fine. At the start of the second half we didn’t didn’t execute and that led to them scoring points. The leaders stepped up. I think we got along pretty well.
As much disappointment as there was among the All Blacks players, Smith said their focus had already been on Testing Wellington.
“It’s very exciting. I’m energized by it,” he said. “I’m already thinking about the coming week. We were hoping for a more positive result but I feel like I want to be there.
“We have to get back to work and go somewhere we haven’t been this year. It’s going to be a thriller.”
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