Best of the Weekend: Ireland hold on to beat the All Blacks

Jonathan Sexton

Wow oh wow, everything about that game was just mesmeric, Chicago was history-making as was the game versus England at Croke Park in ‘07 but this will live long in the memory.

Yet again it was a game of fine margins, the All Blacks have gone through that scenario three times already this season, twice versus South Africa and in last weekend’s game against England. Ireland’s defence, orchestrated by former England and Lions defence coach Andy Farrell, was so determined and coherent that there was nothing New Zealand could do. Jacob Stockdale, the hero of the Grand Slam earlier this year, scored the one try that was the difference.

The defending World Cup champions threw the kitchen sink at the men in green but the Irish, backed by the rapturous crowd of the Aviva Stadium simply held on. This is a huge statement of intent from Joe Schmidt and co. but with the Six Nations yet to come and the fact that anything could happen in twelve months makes me apprehensive to deem the Irish favourites to win the World Cup in Japan just yet, but boy they have proved that Chicago was not a one off and they have avenged the close defeats of 2014 and 2016 in Dublin.

In the other Autumn Internationals
Wales raced out of the blocks in Cardiff to gain a 24-0 lead against Tonga but credit to the Islanders they fought their way back through their forwards to draw 24-24 just after halftime. However, the Welsh stepped up 2 gears and went on the onslaught, scoring tries whenever they had the chance.

Japan showed mettle but England managed to pull through, just. Led by talismanic captain Michael Leitch (in my opinion one of the Southern Hemisphere’s finest), the Cherry Blossoms surprised England to a 10-15 lead at half-time which silenced a Twickenham crowd so boisterous the previous week. Thankfully, England hit back through the introduction of co-captains Owen Farrell and Dylan Hartley as well as the destructive ball carrying of Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes. Finally they prevailed with a 35-15 victory with debutant Joe Cokanasiga getting a try after an impressive first outing in the senior England jersey. Japan have proved this autumn they are not to be messed about next year at the World Cup while Eddie Jones will be less than impressed with his side’s performance against his former Employers’.

South Africa inflicted a rare home defeat on Scotland. Last weekend I was pretty vocal with my opinion on Sam Underhill’s disallowed try, but I was hasty to label it one of the worst decisions I have ever seen. That was until Saturday when Jaco Peyper thought that Willie le Roux’s genuine attempt at an intercept was a deliberate knock-on and a yellow card worthy offence, when Scotland were no where near the goaline. Despite that peculiar decision, the Springboks held on to win another close game in 2018 with the indiscipline from Scotland being the difference between the two sides.

Australia finally got a win, although against much inferior opposition Italy. The Aussies still weren’t brilliant though and somewhat laboured to a victory with Marika Koroibete grabbing a double and Taniela Tupou, the Tongan Thor, getting his 1st try in the gold jersey. Also Les Bleus went back to winning ways with a 28-13 win over Argentina.

Gloucester majestic in win over Leicester
For how much I respect Austin Healey as a pundit and as a former rugby player, he must surely now realise that mentioning Cipriani too much won’t get him back into the England squad. England head coach Eddie Jones doesn’t like being told what to do, especially by the media, therefore I think us journalists need to revert back a notch when talking about the England flhalf. Undoubtedly, Cipriani was very, very good on Friday night, his vision and execution was exemplary. But it was the whole Gloucester effort that just blew the Tigers away, the pack, the backline, the finishing. It was sublime. Leicester were left clueless (where have we seen that before?) and were riddled with errors. Ollie Thorley’s try of the season contender left Kingsholm in pandemonium and it meant that the Cherry and Whites had secured their biggest victory over one of their old enemies.

Harlequins ground to a win over Newcastle, with Francis Saili and Alex Dombrandt’s (I told you this guy was good!) tries crucial to victory, for some reason the Premiership is not a happy hunting ground for the Falcons at the moment. Sale pushed Saracens really close at Barnet Copthall but replacement Joel Kpoku (who’s really making a name for himself) grabbed the winning try in the last minute to bag another victory for the defending Premiership champions.

Bath ended Worcester’s honeymoon with a 30-13 victory over the Warriors. Flyhalf Freddie Burns was sublime in attack and off the tee and Bath were more dominant in the pack. A supercharged Taquele Naiyaravoro inspired Northampton to smash Wasps at Franklin Gardens, the capped Wallaby was simply unstoppable!

Finally, the Bristol Bears were seconds away from a famous home victory over Exeter Chiefs. The return of “million” dollar man Charles Piutau inspired Bristol to a 19-12 lead at halftime but the introduction of former Wallaby scrumhalf Nic White sprung the Chiefs into life and they got a contentious penalty try to steal the game from the death.

Key Talking Points:
– Do you think Ireland are now favourites to win the World Cup?
– Was Italy’s disallowed try a try?
– Is the offication of offsides becoming a joke?
– Has England had a successful autumn so far?

38 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Ireland hold on to beat the All Blacks

  1. Just going to put this out there, but I don’t think that this All Black team is that great.
    Now before Don P starts on his keyboard like a demented woodpecker, I still think that they are the best team in the world – one loss to Ireland doesn’t change that. However, the gap between them and the rest has seriously narrowed. And I wouldn’t say that’s because the standard elsewhere has improved. Overall I think the standard of international rugby is currently going through a poor patch.
    In recent results, they’ve drawn at home in a Lions series, been beaten (at home again) by SA, scraped past SA in the return match, beat an inexperienced England by the grace of the TMO and a couple of inches and lost to an Ireland missing Conor Murray, SOB and Dan Leavy – and not just lost but failed to even score a try in perfect rugby conditions – and when was the last time you could say that about the All Blacks?
    These are not the results of a vintage All Black team. Perhaps they are getting a little stale under Hansen, perhaps it’s because Barrett doesn’t seem to have the tactical game to counter a dedicated and well drilled rush defence. Perhaps it’s the balance in the back 3 with McKenzie at fullback – would they be better off with BB there and Mo’unga at 10? Maybe they are just having a poor run of form and will emerge the other side to destroy every other side they meet.
    Who knows?
    However, I think it’s safe to say that the NZ public will be nervously eyeing up the RWC in 10 month’s time and wondering whether they have the team to make it three in a row




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    1. I partially agree with the comments on NZ, insomuch as that the dominance has wobbled in the past 18months and it will be interesting to see why – it could still just be that other teams are improving comparatively faster, and closing the gap as a result (although I would maintain the gap is still very much there).
      The bit I’m not sure I agree with is the comment on the current standard of international rugby going down; in my mind the attacking ability of teams has gone up – more tries on average, with some wonderful tries being scored (Scotland and Wales scored some delights this past weekend), and that’s with defences getting better as well (Ireland’s was lung-busting to watch, let alone execute). More teams are able to go toe-to-toe with one another with genuine ability to get a result (Georgia, Japan – even Italy didn’t get slaughtered by Australia) and the hemispheres are the most equally matched that they’ve been in a decade at least. I’m not saying you’re wrong, although I do disagree with the call – but it would be interesting to know to what sort of ‘Golden Age(s)’ of international rugby you are comparing it to that the current brand is deemed a ‘poor patch’? Outside of frequent refereeing controversies (the laws are quite messy currently, as the sport comes to terms with matching player welfare to a game where players weighing over 100kg throw themselves at eachother), things feel pretty good to me.




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      1. I’ll agree that some of the smaller teams seem to be improving and getting more professional. Am not sure I’d include Italy as one of them though!
        As for my comments, to explain:
        England – their winning streak served to cover up long term deficincies that have since been laid bare. Don’t seem to have a settled side or gameplan and I fear a close win over SA and the game aginst NZ will only serve to gloss over questions that have not yet been answered
        Wales – a young team so in a re-building stage but close wins against Georgia and Samoa last year suggest strength in depth is not great
        Scotland – up, down, up, down. No consistency and mix genius with poor play in equal measure
        France – don’t know who they want to play, don’t know how they want to play. Some deeply poor performances over the last few years.
        Australia – a pale shadow of the side they once were. Seem to have lost that Aussie never say die attitude. Still alot of individual talent but it is exactly that – individual
        SA – solid, big , strong but nothing more than that
        Ireland – brilliant gameplan and the right people to execute it but a touch one-dimensional and overly reliant on a few players
        NZ – already covered
        For sure most sides go through up and down periods but it seems that almost all sides are going through a down period – with perhaps the exception of Ireland and a Wales team that may have turned a corner, hard to know yet.
        Totally agree about reffing though




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        1. No matter who is injured for Ireland the results are always the same, this autumn has clearly debunked the cliche that Ireland rely on players




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          1. Agreed; after the leadership group got massacred in the France game at the RWC (POC,POM, & Sexton) and Argentina made Ireland pay for it in the QFs, Schmidt has been making sure that people can stand up when the talismans are forced out. I thought it would be another heroic defeat vs NZ on Saturday because Murray was missing (still put Ireland to win on SuperBru for the craic) and was happily proven wrong!




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        2. Ach, Italy may be my wishful thinking – although reports seem to suggest they were denied two tries in the Australia match (didn’t watch it so can’t confirm) which could have made it a lot closer – I just feel that because O’Shea has access to ALL levels of Italian rugby, and that their U20 team for example has been doing very well in the U20 6Ns, that Italy may yet finally get to where they want to be in the next few years. Not expecting it by Japan RWC though!

          As for the other teams:
          England – mostly agree. Definitely rot in the foundations somewhere, but how to find it seems to be challenging the coaching packet.
          Wales – disagree that their depth is poor – they relied on a load of younger/less capped players for this year’s 6N, and they came close to beating both Eng and Ire (Stockdale’s intercept try crucial) – and were 2nd after all that anyway. Defence is suffocatingly effective, like Ireland’s. Rebuilding yes, but doing so ominously well.
          Scotland – yes up-down, but compared to 5yrs ago its incredible just how far they’ve come. They’ve beaten a host of top teams, only narrowly lost the ABs last autumn, and so while they need to find consistency for sure, they’re in the position where they can beat anyone on their day. That is NOT something Scottish rugby has been able to argue since about 1999 at least.
          France – underestimate them this 6N at your peril; they may still be disjointed but they are getting results. French flair may be dead – or dormant – but they are in a better place then they have been since 2010/11.
          Australia – agree completely – falling off a cliff. I fear unless someone does something special, they may finally fall victim to being so much less popular than their Aussie Rules and League cousins. I hope not.
          SA – judging by Kolbe, Pollard, and de Klerk, Erasmus is rapidly rebuilding the Boks to being way more than just ‘strong and solid’. Ran England off their feet in SA in the summer. Have every chance of being about 90% ready by Japan (which is more than many teams may be able to handle).
          Ireland – a friendly ‘b*llocks’ to the ‘reliant’ element; they just played NZ without Murray, Henshaw, SOB, and with key performers like POM having to go off with the match still plenty in the balance. The one-dimensional bit I would argue is more to do with it being a winning formula – they can (and do) play different brands of rugby if required, although how quickly they can adapt under pressure is still a question I want to see answered. Carberry needs a good run-out in the 6N or lack of backup to Sexton will remain a weak link.
          NZ – still running rings around teams most of the time and have a great number of capped (and talented) individuals to call on. Dominance has wobbled from some losses and near-misses, but ability to win has not. Also now have a year to solve any ‘problems’.

          That’s my verdict anyway – while some countries are struggling, the majority of the top teams are actually doing better than they have for ages and building to peak for next year nicely. Producing some great games along the way, too.




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    2. Well Pablito, a few maybe’s & perhaps’s in there. Think it’s called speculation. Nothing wrong with that, so long as you recognise it & all this after 1 result!? Why not prior? After it happened, did you see it
      coming?! 1995 BTW (I think). Again, it was 1 game. Away. Yr cherry picking of facts to suit yr hypothesis would have been more convincing if you’d nailed yr colours to the mast before the AI’s surely? Anyway, we’ll see how it transpires in the 6N’s on which you may also wish to concentrate. Regarding teams getting poorer, I’ll venture that, particilarly lately, teams are cancelling each other out more now due to the mass rush defences & aerial ping pong. It’ll take a while for the more astute to work these tactics out. Maybe in the 6N, or the WC. Maybe EJ can pull a rabbit? Interesting challenges.




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  2. I imagine New Zealand fans aren’t exactly happy at the moment, but it’s safe to say New Zealand are favourites. They too were missing Sam Cane, Joe Moody and have struggled to find a dead cert 6 since the international retirement of Kaino.




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        1. Pablito, seems somewhat dismissive. Might carry weight if you gave reasons for yr contention. Also interesting that you didn’t mention this til after last Sat. Attention seeking as per yr ‘putting it out there’ opinion?




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          1. From my comment on the article about the announcement of the kiwi team to play England:
            “Don’t think Savea is as good as Cane and Squire isn’t quite as good as Kaino used to be”
            Don’t make stuff up Don, I clearly did mention it before last Saturday. You just don’t remember it.
            As for why, I don’t believe he is as effective in the tight, rucks or the tackle as Kaino was.
            Against England he carried the ball 3 times for 0 metres gained and made 5 tackles. He was hooked after 50 mins
            Against Ireland he admittedly went off after just half an hour (I think injured?) during which time he’d made just 3 tackles despite Ireland having 60%+ posession.
            Of course stats aren’t everything but they are a handy guide.
            He’s a good flanker for sure but not a great one and definitely not up there with Kaino




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            1. We’ll Pablito, you did mention Savea & Squire as not being as good as their predecessors Cane & Kaino, but gave NO reasons for stating so. Don ‘t have to of course, but yr opinion might have carried more weight if you had done so. You also mentioned in yr previous, NZ team post, that Savea & Squire would walk into any other (Int’al) team, so they were hardly a weakness. Therefore, surely, you undermine yr own comments above.




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  3. Dunno what took the above article so long. No over time @ w/ends I suppose. Anyway, copious column kilometres about glorious Irish warriors, heroes etc with NZ being try-less, hounded into submission, no hopers. And that’s not to mention that Farrell Snr is now also ‘D’ king, whom England let go. Tch, tch. Mind you, this was from a bunch of geezers called Kelleher, Foy @ SCW, via a copy of the D Mail which I found in Costa’s. Apparently Ireland can now go all the way in the WC too, SCW further opines. And they’re only going to get better when their injured players return. Looks ominous for the rest of the also runners then, doesn’t it? Or does it? Ireland played a sound game, got the result & only a 1 eyed Kiwi would state otherwise. So, good on ’em. Personally, I thought they starved the AB’s of possession & suffocated them in defence. However, stats later showed that NZ had a little under 50 %. They need to up the breakdown & have a bit more variety in attack. Their ‘D’ also held Ireland to 1 try, dependent on the bounce, @ least according to its scorer, Stockdale. Also it was @ home & surprisingly, Wayne Barnes pinged Ireland 1/2 the amount of times he did NZ. Also, as we’ve been there similarly in 2013, when the result went the other way & the WC will be on ‘neutral’ ground, all Ireland have to do now is win everything, with EVERYONE gunning for them. No pressure then. So c’mon England, this is your 1 chance next up! Interesting to see how it all pans out. Maybe others ARE catching the AB’s up? Have NZ reached their peak, or even just gone past their sell by? Well, time’ll tell, but they’ll likely do what they always do. They’ll analyse it, adjust & attempt to fix it. Nick Evans, in the Guardian, thinks so anyway. We’ll see. Still, better NZ drop 1 now, than in the WC. In the meantime, the Mean Green Machine, on the back of this win, will have the spotlight all to themselves now. No point in their talking underdog any more, won’t wash. It’s onwards & er, onwards now isn’t it, ..but, mind the gap?! BTW, the result, funnily enough, seemed to give Stephen Jones’s life some meaning @ last & for which the generous one will doubtless be grateful. Lovely boy!

    PS Had to copy this from my mobile’s notes page whilst travelling on the bus. No mean task I can tell you. However, fellow bloggers may be pleased to note that I did have the foresight to delete my formerly un-noticed, attached 3 Xmas din dins course choices from this post! That alone has got to be worth @ least 1 ‘thumbs up’, surely?!

    PS II, I composed this prior to Pabito’s getting his retaliation in 1st. Worth a 2nd ‘thumbs up’? No doubt! Go on Pab, you know you want to really!




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        1. You can have a thumbs up from me too as people are all getting a bit carried away in the hysteria. AB’s will be right up there in a years time and yes Ireland have shown themselves to be capable of beating them but far cry from the sure thing that the media talk it up to be. Also Ireland are famous for under-performing at RWC so AB’s still firm fravorites




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            1. I stand by what i said Ireland have historically under performed at word cups losing to teams like Argentina, France and Wales in matches they would have been favourites to win

              1987: Eliminated in quarter finals by Australia
              1991: Eliminated in quarter finals by Australia
              1995: Eliminated in quarter finals by France
              1999: Eliminated in quarter-final play-offs by Argentina
              2003: Eliminated in quarter finals by France
              2007: Eliminated in the pool stages below France and Argentina
              2011: Eliminated in quarter finals by Wales
              2015: Eliminated in quarter finals by Argentina

              New Zealand aren’t the problem here. In fact you have only ever played NZ once in the RWC group stages




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              1. Don’t get me wrong I think Ireland have a cracking team and are easily the 2nd best team in the world and arguably the 1st (but for now lets agree its NZ until Ireland can deliver the consistency required to take the top spot in the rankings). When they perform with the passion, commitment and accuracy that they showed on Saturday it hard to see anyone beating them but they don’t perform that well every week and it is a game of fine margins.




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              2. Comparing now with 3 years ago is irrelevant on so many levels

                1. Ireland are now a consistent number 2 ranked side (potentially number 1 during the 6N).

                2. Unlike a lot of those teams are have proved on a consistent basis that they are the real deal and when you look at the age profile of the team it’s just as well there is time left before the World Cup as slot of the young guys could do with another 6N.

                3. Unlike other years we have a coach now who has been to two world cups and the best part of this is he can now fix some of the errors that led to failure at the previous tournament.

                4th just look at the odds, we did a lot right in the years leading up to 2015 yet Ireland were still 5th favorites to win now the bookies are fully behind Ireland as 2nd favorites which goes to show that even they can see these are different circumstances.

                Comparing 2019 with previous sides is lazy and quite frankly clutching at straws, and if anything it shows how far Ireland have come that after beating the All Blacks and having 1 defeat in nearly 2 years we still have people trying to be nit picky.




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                1. Cathal, don’t know where Leon got all those stats! However yr 2 out of 3 v NZ is also too flimsy to construct a trend. In Chicago (how many times have is heard of that 1?!), NZ dicked around with players put of posi. In
                  unavailabity etc, but they spanked Ireland in Dublin 2 weeks later. Decent result last up, but it was @ home & as Stockdale said, it was the luck of the bounce.
                  Also, WC will be on neutral ground & you may not have Wayne Barnes helping you out with the pen count next time either. So, we’ll see if Ireland can sustain in the 6N with no underdog tag, the full spotlight on & everyone gunning to knock them off. If they can do all that my son, they may make you proud! Of course NZ will be lying in wait, having analysed it & having worked on an antidote to yr rush ‘D’ & aerial bombs. After all, they haven’t been No.1 for the past decade with 2 b2b WC’s in their locker without a little bit of nous. May wish to hold fire on counting too many chicks just yet.




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                2. Cathal i clearly stated Ireland are 2nd best in the world right now but my point is that they have struggled to deliver on the biggest stage in the past and this is a sign of a team that don’t cope with the pressure as well as they should. Doesn’t mean they haven’t learnt from mistakes but put a question mark in their column.
                  All I have stated is that NZ are still favourites next year.




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  4. Don, Wayne Barnes had an excellent game. The comparative penalty count is a reflection of the two teams performance, not the referee’s home bias (if I inferred correctly?).




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    1. Blub, IYO. Are you suggesting that the b2b W Champs, No.1 team for the past decade & the most successful team in sporting history don’t know the rules by now? Doesn’t it strike you as a mite curious that, amazingly, the away team gets pinged twice the amount of times as the home side? No? Then surely you’re not 1 of those who just want to see the AB’s fail are you? As you give NO specific reasons for yr contention, it’s surely subjective.




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  5. In order, Don;
    No I don’t suggest that, your inference is wrong. I don’t believe that knowing the rules stops teams from breaking them.
    No, there is no right to equal number of penalties for each team. That would be ridiculous.
    Yes its a No.
    No i’m not one of those. That would render me one-eyed, unable to accept or understand opinions/views that don’t align with my own. I would hate to be like that.

    Yes absolutely. Assuming that IYO means ‘in your opinion’, then obviously it is subjective.

    All of my opinions are subjective.




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