Player ratings: Stuck in the starting stall
OPINION: So, Ireland’s glass ceiling remains unbroken.
Nine times they have been to the World Cup, nine times they have been eliminated without progressing beyond the quarterfinals.
This 14-46 loss to New Zealand was as frustrating as any other, a devastating example of how previous shortcomings get repeated.
Liam Heagney rates the Ireland players!
His first-half highlight was covering alertly to sniff out a Richie Mo’unga kick ahead on 11 minutes when the All Blacks were trying to find George Bridge. His opening lowlight was being too flat to take a wraparound off Johnny Sexton, an error that left to the concession of the third try. Offered nothing in the attack was and gone on 54 for Jordan Larmour who had made two fleeting first-half cameos for blood injuries elsewhere in the backline.
Was given an early awakening when crashed into by the ball-dislodging Jack Goodhue and his defence when questionable when his stepping in created the space for New Zealand to attack for their second try. Similar to Kearney, he was anonymous in the attack.
Missed four minutes in the blood bin early on but also went missing at times when on the pitch as well as the speed of the All Blacks’ handling tested his defence to the limit. Concession of a penalty for a high tackle added to his woe on a nigh that was all about a rearguard slog.
Looked like he had set a high tempo defensive tone with a feisty early tackle on Ardie Savea, but that collision was a mirage. A soft knock-on when targeted by Sam Cane illustrate his team’s unease in possession and, like Ringrose, he too spent a few minutes in the blood bin getting first-half repairs. Stuck at it and at least grabbed a consolation try.
Tried to open his box of tricks with an unorthodox run behind the scrum on his first possession and he was then agonisingly close to picking off an intercept that instead became the deliberate knock-on that gave the All Blacks an early 3-0 lead. Later produced fabulous catch off a Sexton restart. Other than that, had the legs run off him by New Zealand’s trickery in the attack, as highlighted by the game’s closing try when his defending was naive.
Was acutely aware that territory was massively important, as highlighted by an early cross-kick that was punted merely to get Ireland out of their half. Was incredibly denied by Mo’unga’s acrobatics to keep a penalty to touch in play over the touchline. Came in for much attention from the opposition pack throughout, as highlighted by one clatter from Cane. Was then at fault for the ball loss that led to New Zealand’s breakaway third try. A halt was eventually called to his very difficult day with Ireland trailing 34-0.
Early directness suggested he was up for this but instead Aaron Smith became the dominant scrum-half, his two first-half tries leaving Murray and co suffering from scoreboard pressure that was highlight by soft knock-on when on a first-half loop with James Ryan.
His concession of an in at the side penalty on 26 minutes highlighted his pack’s general frustration at losing the physical battle. The contest was played out at a tempo that left his flagging and he was gone on 49 minutes for Dave Kilcoyne after New Zealand had just added their fourth try.
Not the way for his reputable career to end. Instead of departing on a high, it petered out here after he enjoyed an energetic start. However, his effort wasn’t matched by some others, something encapsulated by how he was the lone tackler on Smith at the opening try when there was no guard cover at the side of the ruck. At least he departed to an ovation from the Irish fans on 63 minutes.
Talked a good game in the build-up but never delivered and he was another swamped by the collective power and precision of the All Blacks’ approach. His discomfort was epitomised by how he knocked on when trying to tidy up after Ryan couldn’t take a 19th-minute lineout catch. Within a minute, Ireland was back under their posts having conceded a second try. Lasted until the fourth New Zealand try and then gave way to Andrew Porter.
It was always the fear about Henderson, his struggle to stick two high-level performances together in successive matches. He did step forward to take a pressure lineout catch inside his 22 nine minutes in but other than a healthy number of tackles as the onslaught mounted, there was little else positive about what he contributed and he was gone on 49 minutes for Tadhg Beirne.
This was a bit like watching Paul O’Connell when Ireland was hosed at the 2003 finals by France. Like O’Connell was back then, Ryan had become his team’s most hugely influential forward in the lead up the biggest game of his career, but he was picked off too easily here by a Kiwi pack that had done its homework on how to best neutralise his influence.
Hit a purple patch when Ireland trailed 17-0, stealing a New Zealand lineout and then securing a no-release penalty with an excellent poach. These ‘wins’ though amounted to crumbs and his frustrating outing was defined by the unnecessary tackle with the clock in the red at the end of the first half which saw a penalty decision reversed against Ireland. Was hauled off for Rhys Ruddock before the All Blacks put the game to bed with their fourth try.
JOSH VAN DER FLIER
Has had enjoyable days before against the All Blacks but he looked out of his depth here against a pack that spelt trouble from the first minute. Put in a double-digit shift in the tackle but he is not the type of ball carrying player to rescue his team in an emergency such as this.
Got bottled up on his first carry, which became the story his tough day. He had clearly been identified as Ireland’s primary ball-carrying threat so there was a queue of tacklers always waiting for him. Still made some metres but it was immaterial. So too was his high tackle count.