Schmidt concedes loss was 'devastating'
November 24, 2013
Ben Franks' try got New Zealand back within five points of Ireland © PA Photos
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt admitted their last-minute 24-22 loss to New Zealand was "devastating".
Ireland led 22-17 and were camped on New Zealand's 10-metre line with a matter of seconds left on the clock. But the All Blacks rallied and scored in the 82nd minute of the match. Aaron Cruden's conversion, at the second attempt, won the game for the Kiwis.
Ireland remain winless against New Zealand in 28 attempts and Schmidt acknowledged no amount of positive thinking about tries for Conor Murray, Rory Best and Rob Kearney can alleviate the deep dejection of a cruel defeat.
"We were in possession with a minute to go," Schmidt said. "To be a minute away from history and have the ball in your hands on their 10-metre line, well it's devastating. I guess you sum it up as a step forward but a missed opportunity.
"You don't get too many opportunities to play the All Blacks and to stop them doing something that's pretty special. It would have been a feather in our caps to be the ones to knock them over. We lost a few guys with injury and we started to look a bit piecemeal out there.
"I thought we were pretty dynamic in those first 20 minutes and pretty good for the lead we made. They put a lot of pressure on us in the second-half and the defence in the end is disappointing but it's cumulative. We made a lot of tackles in the second half and that started to show. We were hanging on by a thread and the thread was just a little bit too thin to make sure we could stop them."
Schmidt said it was not worth taking issue with Cruden's retaken conversion that won the tie, and sealed New Zealand's 14-game perfect season. He added: "A draw was as good as a loss to us. We haven't won in 108 years of trying against this opposition and we didn't want to just do what had been done before.
"If a player moves once he's stood still, our players felt he had. For me he'd already done it once, it wasn't so smart to do it the second time. If the referee's happy he hasn't started his movement towards the ball then he can award another kick. But it's not relevant for us here."
For New Zealand coach Steve Hansen, the win completes an incredible feat for the All Blacks - the perfect year.
"I would like to congratulate Ireland on a sensational performance. They certainly rattled us and that wasn't the script," Hansen said. "They can take a lot from their performance. But I'm incredibly proud of our 23: to claw their way across the line is a special effort.
"Maybe another day Ireland would have won it, but we'll take it, enjoy the summer and reflect on what's been a great year but at the same time realise we've got a lot of work to do to stay where we are. But it's important to acknowledge a pretty special performance from Ireland.
"I think it's really important that you don't see this as the All Blacks as not having turned up. The All Blacks turned up, but so did Ireland. When you force mistakes, and when you're good enough to score from them you put the team suffering under pressure and you fill your own jersey up with self-belief.
"We expect them to be tough, every time. But sometimes they don't believe they are as tough as they are. All of a sudden we saw a team way beyond what we'd seen for a while."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene