Over the past month or so you wouldn’t have been able to have a conversation as a Rugby fan without hearing the words “Ireland and All Blacks”, and two weeks ago Ireland changed that to “IRELAND and All Blacks” as they triumphed in Chicago. But as the Autumn Internationals go on, the second encounter between the two was drawing ever closer, and this could essentially question the All Blacks’ future at the top.
Although, it was not to be for Ireland as the sides clashed again in Dublin at the weekend; All Blacks holding Ireland to a 21-9 defeat, breaking the dreams of many Irish as they wished to overcome the World No.1s for only the second time. Reports of the match state that Ireland dominated the very physical test on both territory (70%) and possession (67%). This overall aggressive game essentially brought along a few yellow cards for the ride, with the likes of Fekitoa who put in a swinging arm. As the teams were not too friendly, it was also very sloppy, coming no where near close to the world class performance from both sides at Soldier Field a couple of weeks ago. New Zealand got the prize for poorest performance as it seemed they just wanted to get off the field as quickly as possible with the win.
Looking at it the other way, Ireland were definitely nothing special as well, being picked up on for their lack of aggression on the attack; a prime example of this being kicking for goal, not only once but TWICE when New Zealand were down to 14, maybe if they were more optimistic with their attacking play they might have turned the situation around. Although, this was probably best for New Zealand, as they were being slated on the opposite; their defensive play within tackles as they were either ‘too sloppy or too malicious’ in such situations.
The game on Saturday was a bit off not just on performance terms, as the officials seemed to be feeling a bit off too. TMO Jon Mason has been under fire since Saturday as he was seen to make the definitive decision on two separate occasions, one on Robbie Henshaw’s collision; other one on Barrett’s grounding of his try, both could have been important decisions in the game. But it is not this which is the problem, but the fact that power between match officials seems to be shifting without any change in game laws, making the referee STILL the definitive voice within the game, but does this seem to be changing?
Overall the game wasn’t quite what us over at In The Loose were hoping for, it was rather disappointing to be honest. All Rugby fans were hoping to see a brave performance considering the situation; Ireland wanting to make the step up, and New Zealand wanting to keep the momentum going with only one loss in recent match ups, but to me it was far from that. It is true that the odd decisions made by officials made a bit of a difference, but both sides should have gone out there with the idea of displaying their all to the Rugby world. I guess we will have to wait ’til their next face off to see who is truly riding in the top spots, but one thing is for sure, Ireland are once again becoming a force in World Rugby!