All Blacks praised to the hilt
November 17, 2008
All Blacks Conrad Smith, Dan Carter and skipper Richie McCaw reflect on their victory over Ireland following the match at Croke Park © Getty Images
Irish eyes were green with envy as the All Blacks denied their hosts an historic test rugby victory with ease at Dublin's Croke Park.
The reaction to New Zealand's 22-3 win was fatalistic today as the All Blacks headed for Limerick and a match to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Munster's famous 12-0 triumph over the 1978 Grand Slam winners.
"We'll be knocking mileage out of that game in Thomond Park for some time yet," Eamonn Sweeney lamented in The Irish Independent newspaper as he dissected another inadequate Irish performance.
"These games don't change much. There is brave talk beforehand, some gutsy play from Ireland, moments when the luck seems to go against us, moments when we kid ourselves that the All Blacks are there for the taking, unrealistic hopes of an historic breakthrough. And in the end the result is always the same, they win, we lose, this time by 22-3.
"A begrudging note has crept in lately when we talk about the All Blacks. There has been an unseemly crowing about their continued travails in the World Cup, mean complaints about the haka, endless disinterment of Keven Mealamu's involvement in the infamous Brian O'Driscoll incident on the Lions tour in 2005.
"Instead we should celebrate the All Blacks," Sweeney argued. "From the same kind of small island as ourselves, they have set a standard of excellence which few other teams in any sport have managed to maintain.
"They weren't even particularly awesome in Croke Park. Yet here they were against an Irish team whose morale is high under an indisputably great manager (Declan Kidney), containing some of the most exciting players we've ever produced, supported by fans who made the great old stadium a real cauldron. And, without playing particularly well, they slaughtered us."
Writing in the Guardian newspaper, Bernard Fanning joined the fawning admiration of all things black. "If you were lucky enough to have had a birds' eye view of this first, and perhaps last, appearance by the All Blacks at Croke Park, you will have appreciated how good the Kiwis can be. From that angle you see perfectly all the running off the ball as well as the running on it."
Under the headline: "Black day for misfiring Irish" Peter O'Reilly told Sunday Times readers a third Grand Slam was surely within New Zealand's grasp. "Ireland were put emphatically in their place by a ruthless All Blacks side which overcame a scratchy first half to complete the second leg of what, on this form, will surely be a Grand Slam tour," he said.
"Even at 3-3 with 37 minutes on the clock, there was already an inevitability about the result. For while Ireland were game and determined, they rarely looked like threatening the Black line; in contrast, the speed, power and movement of the tourists had an irresistible quality.
"Ireland's optimism coming into the game was probably based on their three most recent cracks at the Blacks, all of them on New Zealand soil in June when they lost by no more than a dozen points on each occasion.
"What people failed to realise is there's a world of a difference between discomfiting the Kiwis in their first test of the summer and coming up against them towards the end of their season.
"That Ireland kept it respectable speaks well of their spirit and defence At least they know, they won't come up against quality like this in the Six Nations."
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9