Ireland dominate the All Blacks in the second Test of 2022. Video/Sky Sport
Phil Gifford presents his three talking points from the historic All Blacks defeat to Ireland in Dunedin.
The worst test of all time?
Having first been on a bench press during an All Blacks Test at
1965, I can’t imagine a worse sight than the Dunedin debacle.
Congratulations to the Irish who played aggressive and technically solid rugby and who fully deserved their 23-12 victory. But the test was a sorry mess.
Starting with a mediocre effort from the All Blacks, too often strangely passive and almost constantly prone to error.
Add a referee to Jaco Peyper, who had all the command of a headless chook. He was so ineffective that he couldn’t even get the Irish to come to the lineouts, his pathetic little hasty attempts having no effect.
The union of Angus Ta’avao and Leicester Fainga’anuku’s failed technique, Ofa Tuungafasi’s foolish decision to tackle a man without the ball, and Peyper’s nervousness, rained down the cards like a parade of tickers of Fifth Avenue.
Top it all off with endless injury breaks and, unless you were born in Galway, buying a ticket for the game was probably the worst $180 ever invested.
The damage to the reputation of the All Blacks was extensive, but equally serious was the fact that what should have been a showcase for rugby was in fact as poor publicity for the sport as can be.
Is there light on the horizon?
The pressure on the All Blacks ahead of the third Test in Wellington will be the greatest they have faced in the Ian Foster era.
A victory, in the event and in the series, will not be enough to convince those who will take it as an article of faith that the All Blacks are in the wrong hands. They need a triumphant victory.
Is there even a glimmer of light in the darkness of Dunedin? Strangely there are several, and no, I did not drown my sorrows with alcohol.
For starters, the All Blacks must surely start better than they did in the first two Tests, when in the opening minutes they all but slept up 5-0 in Auckland and 10-0 in Dunedin. As a group they will now suffer all week, and when the anthems and haka are over in Wellington it would be unconscionable if there weren’t 15 angry and excited men in black starting the game.
They can certainly defend well enough to thwart Ireland. Evidence? Down to 13 men for 10 minutes on Saturday night, Ireland were unable to score a try.
Not making unforced handling errors would change everything. Just keeping the ball could give Will Jordan and Sevu Reece opportunities. As Jordan showed with his last try in Dunedin, they will take them.
And, strange as those words may have sounded after the infamous 2007 quarter-final he refereed in Cardiff, it’s good news that Wayne Barnes is in charge in Wellington. The mature Barnes is a great referee who brings a certainty and calm that promises none of the near chaos that plagued the Dunedin Test.
Not much history to repeat
Dropping an All Blacks manager has always been a far more popular option with fans and commentators than it has been with New Zealand rugby officials. The past gives some clues as to which is the best path.
In 1991, there was a groundswell for Alex Wyllie to be replaced by John Hart. After agonizing for months, NZRU made the weak decision to compromise and appointed Hart and Wyllie as co-coaches. An extremely scrappy All Blacks side came out in the semi-finals against Australia.
In 1999, after a horrible five game losing streak, NZRU stayed with Hart. The All Blacks went out in the semi-finals with France.
In 2008, after losing to France in the quarter-finals of the 2007 World Cup, NZRU re-signed Graham Henry. The most barely printable reaction came from our only undefeated All Blacks manager, Fred Allen, who simply said, “Oh, for **** sake.” The All Blacks won the 2011 Cup.
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