Written by Max Sharp.
The biggest crowd to take Eden Park since 2017’s sellout British and Irish Lions tour, saw a black wave with clean strokes of green pack into the stadium. Ian Foster’s All Blacks and Andy Farrell’s Ireland gave the Auckland crowd of 48,195 people a mouthwatering contest from start to finish. Though Ireland absolutely outthought the All Blacks, easy mistakes saw the team implode, after captain Johnny Sexton failed an HIA. We’ll read through the Irish players from number 1 through to 23, to see how they performed away from home.
The Aki whānau hold up a sign they made for Ireland's number 23, Bundee Aki, after the test match. Photo: Max Sharp.
Ireland Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Andrew Porter (4/10)
A strong, dynamic performance around the pitch, but will be bitterly disappointed with his performance in the scrum. 14 metres off 6 carries, 4 passes, 1 offload and 12 tackles won’t paper over a 50% scrum rate; Ireland won just 3 of 6 scrums from their own feed. Outplayed by Tu’ungafasi.
Hooker - Dan Sheehan (7/10)
Demonstrated his deserved place as the team’s second-choice hooker once again. Threw accurate lineout ball, while being the team’s top carrier, with 14, allowed Sheehan to run 41 metres and beat 2 defenders. A strong defensive effort too, 9 tackles and 1 turnover.
Tighthead Prop - Tadgh Furlong (4/10)
Not a vintage performance from the number 3, who was also outplayed in the scrum. Furlong’s 66 minutes also saw him restricted to just 7 tackles, though his blemishes were saved by quick ruck speed. 10 metres and 1 defender beaten is more than what you’d expect from most props.
Lock 4 - Tadgh Beirne (3/10)
Didn’t notice the number 4 make it to a lot of rucks, 6 tackles is very low considering the team’s 51% possession rate in the first half. Allowed lineout ball to be stolen multiple times, while his 8 metres from 5 carries weren’t quite that effective. Off after 64 minutes.
Lock 5 - James Ryan (6/10)
Faced a similar problem to Beirne on attack, running just 7 metres from his 6 carries, but looked a more reliable lineout jumper. Ryan also made twice as many tackles has his kicking partner, with 12, the second-most in his team. Provided leadership after Sexton’s exit.
Blindside Flanker - Peter O’Mahony (7/10)
O’Mahony took over as captain in the 31st minute and gave a follow-me-type performance. He was everywhere, running 27 metres and beating 2 defenders off 8 carries in the wide channels, while his decoy runs saw 10 passes and 1 offload. Typically bought strong defence, with 10 tackles and 1 turnover.
Openside Flanker - Josh van der Flier (7/10)
Played how he was coached to, got stuck into the tight spaces and didn’t make a fuss of it. We saw van der Flier become the top tackler for Ireland, with 18, while he ran 16 metres off 9 carries, made 6 passes and reduced Sam Cane’s effectiveness through man-marking.
Right: van der Flier speaks to fans after the match. Photo: Max Sharp.
Number 8 - Caelan Doris (5/10)
The guy’s a talent, but is he ready to be a key decision-maker for the team? Probably not. The All Blacks had his number, which saw Doris make just 2 carries for 6 metres. Got stuck in on defence with 11 tackles and 1 turnover, but was hooked after 56 minutes for a more all-round player in Jack Conan.
Halfback - Jamison Gibson-Park (8/10)
Returned to his nation of birth and gave his all to the cause, with some snipes on attack allowing Gibson-Park to run 9 metres and beat 1 defender from 5 carries. Delivered exceptionally quick ball with his 71 passes, while making 7 tackles, more than Beirne and as many as Furlong. Robbed of an All Black cap.
First-Five - Jonathan Sexton (6/10)
Only on the pitch for 31 minutes before succumbing to a concussion, but had his team very much in order, selecting strong carriers with his 11 passes. Missed his only attempted goal.
Left: Sexton's only shot at goal during the test match. Photo: Max Sharp.
Left Wing - James Lowe (5/10)
Though people put the case forward for Lowe being robbed of an All Black cap, Sevu Reece had a field day out there with Lowe completing just 2 tackles. Did his role as a winger with 48 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 11 carries, also distributing with 4 passes and 2 offloads. Perhaps this was an unwise move though, there were a few handling errors from him.
Second-Five - Robbie Henshaw (6/10)
Was by no means able to run riot but was solid enough. Constantly threatening the All Blacks’ line with 23 metres, 3 defenders beaten and 2 clean breaks off 8 carries, while allowing the forwards to do so as well, with 9 good passes. Made a couple handling errors, but also 9 tackles. A slightly above average game.
Centre - Garry Ringrose (8/10)
Much like Henshaw, Ringrose oft-threatened the line, but scored a try, made 45 metres, 2 defenders beaten and 1 clean break off 8 carries. Made some monster hits on defence, though he’ll be unhappy with the missed tackle in the lead-up to Ardie Savea’s second try.
Right Wing - Keith Earls (6/10)
With Mack Hansen testing positive for COVID-19 ahead of the test, Earls played for the second time in four days, but was an appropriate selection due to his experience. Didn’t get a lot of ball but did well when receiving it. Earls beat two defenders on the way to scoring the opening try, while making 1 pass and 3 tackles. Did well enough.
Keith Earls approaches the bench to get a drink of water, shortly after scoring the opening try of the match. Photo: Max Sharp.
Fullback - Hugo Keenan (4/10)
Keenan may be an accurate tackler, but he paid dearly for the open spaces he left around the field. Failed to generate any genuine counterattacks either, confined to just 27 metres off 6 carries - not ideal considering the team’s possession rate. Got involved as a distributor for 7 passes, but an overall game to forget.
Reserve Hooker - Dave Heffernan (No rating)
Played for four minutes before failing an HIA, so won't be rated.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Cian Healy (No rating)
Was initially named as the reserve tighthead prop, but wore jersey 17 after Finlay Bealham's late withdrawal. Won't be rated, as he did not play.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Tom O'Toole (6/10)
Came on for Furlong with 14 minutes left, but did a decent amount in this time, with 7 metres off 4 carries, 3 passes and 2 tackles. The team's ruck speed improved with him on the pitch, perhaps O'Toole should come on earlier next week?
Reserve Lock - Kieran Treadwell (6/10)
Treadwell made a similar impact as O'Toole and will have secured a place in next week's lineup. A stat sheet displayed 7 metres from 4 carries, 3 passes and 2 tackles, while he added some muscle to the rucks.
Reserve Loose Forward - Jack Conan (7/10)
Ireland need to settle on a number 8 ahead of the World Cup and Conan's experience will likely secure him that spot. Added some power out wide with 14 metres and 1 defender beaten from 4 carries, while he made an offload and 4 tackles. Must start next week, with Doris at 6.
Reserve Halfback - Conor Murray (No rating)
Joined the match with just 8 minutes to go, so won't be rated.
Reserve First-Five - Joey Carbery (5/10)
Produced the goods all-round, but the team didn't quite hold the confidence they had with Sexton on the field. Carbery may have run 8 metres, beaten 2 defenders off 6 carries and made 16 passes, to go with 6 tackles, but the drivers' seat didn't quite seem to be his.
Reserve Midfielder - Bundee Aki (6/10)
On for Earls with 24 minutes left and didn't get many opportunities, but with his family in the crowd, Aki made the most of it. Made 2 metres off 2 carries, 2 passes and completed both of his tackle attempts, scoring the game's final try. Should start over Henshaw next week.