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Player Ratings: Outwit, Outsmart and Outplayed

OPINION: After suffering a first-ever home defeat at the hands of Ireland last weekend, the All Blacks were looking to bounce back at Sky Stadium in the series decider on Saturday.


Ireland struck first and had their fans roaring in the stadium, and then piled on plenty more points in the first half to take a 22-3 lead into halftime. While the All Blacks had the better of the second spell, scoring three tries to Ireland’s one, it wasn’t enough to fight back from such a sizeable disadvantage, and Ireland claimed another historic win.

Sam Smith rates the All Blacks Players 

1. George Bower – 4/10
Put in a couple of big tackles in the first half but was otherwise anonymous. Scrum was secure but for a prop whose biggest strength is ostensibly his work around the park, it was an underwhelming performance. Off in 72nd minute.

2. Codie Taylor – 3.5
Was better around the park than last week but still looks a shadow of his former self. The All Blacks also seriously struggled at lineout time, with Ireland sniffling four of Taylor’s 12 deliveries. That doesn’t all come down to the hooker, of course, but with nothing else going superbly, it didn’t help. Off in 62nd minute.

3. Nepo Laulala – 3
Not a good return to action. Missed an early tackle on Caelan Dorris which gave Ireland some early momentum but he made up for it with a turnover at the ruck moments later. Infringed in the 30th minute at the maul but it didn’t matter too much because Ireland scored before the advantage came to anything. Threw an offload forward right in front of the All Blacks’ posts, handing Ireland prime attacking ball which they converted into a seven-pointer. At least the scrums were steady. Off at halftime but returned in the 45th minute as a temporary replacement for Ofa Tuungafasi. Smashed James Lowe with one big tackle.

4. Brodie Retallick – 5.5
Struggled to assert himself in the first 40 but one of a number of All Blacks forwards whose carrying game came to life in the second half, especially in the period immediately following halftime. Coughed up the ball when the All Blacks were building some momentum early in the match. Off in 51st minute after foul play from Andrew Porter.


5. Sam Whitelock – 6.5
His return to the side didn’t coincide with a great uptake in lineout success for the All Blacks – but he did secure all five of the ball delivered his way. Got his running game going in the second 40, which is a relatively rare sight for the elder statesman. Grabbed a key turnover at the end of the first quarter to shut down an Ireland foray.

6. Akira Ioane – 7
Was caught upright on one or two carries, which dulled his impact. When he was able to get momentum behind him, however, he was difficult to stop. Scored a brilliant try from 20 metres out which a combination of power and agility and generally made some massive runs in the second spell. Shelled the ball to yield any final opportunity of points but the game was already lost at that point.

7. Sam Cane – 5
Tackled Josh van der Flier without the ball in the opening exchanges, handing Ireland a close-range lineout from which they grabbed an easy maul try. Secured a well-earned breakdown penalty after 40 minutes to hand his men one last attacking opportunity in the first half but was pinged for attempting the same in the 55th minute. Topped the tackle chart for the home side. Off in 64th minute.

8. Ardie Savea – 8
Dynamic as always. Strong in the carry and typically required at least a couple of Irish defenders to bring him to ground. Scored the All Blacks’ first try of the match with some great work from close-range (but not that close). Grabbed an admittedly questionable breakdown steal the next time Ireland went on the attack but was pinged for getting his timing slightly wrong later in the half. Knocked the ball on at the base of the ruck when the All Blacks were building their first real set of phases earlier in the game.


9. Aaron Smith – 5
Passing was slick but the All Blacks just didn’t have any momentum to work with. Pinged once for rushing up before the ball was out of the breakdown. Off in 62nd minute.

10. Beauden Barrett – 4.5
The backline didn’t flourish at all throughout the series and that was especially true in Wellington. Barrett had plenty of touches but couldn’t orchestrate much with the ball in hand – although did challenge the line throughout. Similarly to last week, managed to snare an intercept when the Irish were hot on attack. Pinged for a silly ruck clearout, going miles beyond the breakdown, which Johnny Sexton converted into points.

11. Sevu Reece – 3
One of his quietest games in a black jersey. Tried to dance around a few defenders but had few chances to make any sort of an impact. Off in 62nd minute.

12. David Havili – 4.5
Kicked an excellent 50:22 from deep inside New Zealand’s half but, like the rest of his backline, otherwise failed to mark any sort of a mark on the game.

13. Rieko Ioane – 5
Hit the line with pace when given the ball – but it happened so rarely. Had the ball stripped following one strong run, then was a bit overzealous off the ground and never got onside at the next breakdown. Off in 70th minute.

14. Will Jordan – 6.5
His boot was his main weapon in the first half but finally had some space to run in the second when Savea’s inside ball sent Jordan away – and he raced almost 80 metres to score. That exceptional try aside, was kept quiet.

15. Jordie Barrett – 5
Some good work under the high ball early doors retained possession for the All Blacks – and Barrett was given the opportunity to kick a penalty goal seconds later, but couldn’t find his target. Quiet with the ball in hand but it was his sliding catch in the 60th minute that gave the All Blacks the possession they needed for Jordan’s try.


16. Dane Coles – N/A
On in 62nd minute. Hit his lineout targets.

17. Karl Tu’inukuafe – N/A
On in 72nd minute.

18. Ofa Tuungafasi – N/A
On at halftime. Lasted just five minutes before he copped a shoulder to the head from Bundee Aki which went unnoticed by referee Wayne Barnes.

19. Tupou Vaa’i – 5
On in 51st minute. Made a couple of nice runs and hit plenty of rucks once he joined the game.

20. Dalton Papalii – N/A
On in 64th minute. Couldn’t assert himself at the breakdown.

21. Folau Fakatava – 4.5
On in 62nd minute. Looked frantic – a tough introduction to test rugby, two losses on the bounce and only entering the game while the All Blacks were already behind on the scoreboard.

22. Richie Mo’unga – 5
On in 62nd minute. Wasn’t able to orchestrate anything with the forward losing the momentum they’d gained earlier in the half.

23. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – N/A
On in 70th minute.


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