“You have to say, Justin, there's only one team on the field that looks like scoring!”
“That's absolutely right...they have the momentum at the moment, and all the attitude to go with it!”
If you want unbiased TV coverage when the All Blacks are playing, you need to be sure to follow the New Zealand commentary. The gushing of respect from the UK version of Sky Sports towards the World Champions generally begins during the haka and never lets up.
As you can see by the above exchange between SkyNZ's Grant Nisbett and Justin Marshall, the Kiwis knew they'd been in a game when this one was over.
Sadly for Ireland, shortly after they said those words, at a time when they really needed the momentum they were enjoying to be reflected in the refereeing, Nigel Owens and Romain Poite combined to deny them by seeming to go out of their way to let the All Blacks off the hook.
Look...we can argue the toss about the “wheeling the scrum” call or indeed the knock on that went before it till the cows come home...in my book there may be a case for them to be given, but particularly in the scrum situation, I really don't see how any common sense was used in making the call. Why the hell would Ireland intentionally wheel at that point? They had superiority in the scrum, they had an extra man...let's face it, the All Blacks were there for the taking.
Best way to put it without getting upset is that the call was wrong, if not in technicality then definitely in spirit, and although this will always go down as the “one that got away” in Ireland's quest for a maiden victory over the men in black, they certainly need not look at their own performance for the reasons as they did last week.
And on the subject of having the extra man for the closing ten minutes, there's no doubt Owens got Dagg's yellow correct, and it was no more than the All Blacks deserved after McCaw's knee in D'Arcy's back (which ended his tour), Aaron Smith's arm around O'Driscoll's neck and Ali Williams kicking Eoin Reddan as he went for the quick outlet pass were all considered good enough for them to stay on the park.
I mean it's not as though we did everything perfectly ourselves; early scrums and lineouts were going wrong on our feed, some senseless penalties were being given away, we couldn’t seem to retrieve their restarts and one of our own didn’t go the full ten.
But although many questioned the wisdom of playing multiple tests against such quality opposition, one benefit it does give is a chance to regroup and iron out the kinks from the previous week, and this the Irish definitely did, particularly when the home side had the ball, and it's just as well, since they had it for 60% of the contest.
And it wasn't just the scrum call that went against us...throughout the match we saw several examples of the laws of the game being correctly applied whilst appearing unfair. First Dan Tuohy makes a good tackle and rolls away just as he should – sadly he rolls into an area that is construed as “sealing off” and Dan Carter gets as easy a 3 points as he'll ever get.
Then we perfectly employ our forté choke tackle, only to find the ensuing scrum go against us as the maul was formed following a kick.
Last and certainly not least, there was the ridiculous ruling that the All Blacks who chased down Carte's first attempt at a winning drop goal weren't offside because the “ball was touched in flight”. Again, absolutely the correct call as it did graze Sean O'Brien's farmer's paw on the way by, but for him to be effectively penalised for doing what any coach in the game would have him do is of course utterly absurd.
But hey...I know Roy Keane has a point when he poo-poos the Irish mentality of claiming “moral victories” despite losing on the scoreboard, but what we saw in Christchurch was a far cry from a half-hour's sing-song while witnessing humiliation on the pitch. The positives all over the park were there to be seen and deserve their adulation.
And the SkyNZ commentary duo wouldn't be the only Kiwis who would tell you how dominant Ireland were.
Ask Dan Carter, who despite having a backline behind him more than proven at Test level to cause serious damage, had to resort to desperate drop goal attempts to get his side ahead as though he were playing for an underdog on foreign soil.
Ask Richie McCaw and Adam Thompson – a pair of flankers more battered and bruised after a match at this level I doubt I've ever seen.
And you must certainly ask Sonny Bill Williams, who turned over the ball a half-a-dozen times and probably won't ever see as frightening a sight in a boxing ring than that of Cian Healy's scowling mug at the end of a straight arm that's grabbing his jersey beneath the throat.
The tackling heroes were all throughout the team...O'Brien and 50-cap hero Jamie Heaslip were leading the way much as they did last week, the half-backs and centres were all but unpassable, but special mention I feel must go to our locks Dan Tuohy and Donnacha Ryan...didn't get a lot of mention by commentators of either nationality but at 14 tackles each and perfect lineout catches you could hardly ask much more from a pair that had just 22 caps between them at kickoff.
Now...we come to a sticky part of the writeup for this particular blogger. Last week I stuck it to Declan Kidney and Conor Murray, observations that many would say were made through blue-tinted glasses, as much as I'd try to claim they were as green as I could get them.
So given this 80-minute display and the fact that our lone try was scored by the young Munster scrum-half, does this mean I must now be gorging myself on humble pie? Sorry, but no.
I will praise this one performance as much as the next Irish fan, and on twitter I did so shortly after full-time. As far as 80 minutes of test rugby goes, this was up there with the greatest ever by the men in green.
But when you look over Kidney's tenure, yes, you see a Grand Slam at his first attempt, but following that you see a series of Autumn Internationals, Six Nations and a World Cup that are all characterized by one outstanding display...defeat of the Boks in 2009, demolishing Wales in 2010, England in early 2011 and Australia late, and the spirited draw in Paris this season. Each of them memorable outings that were erased not too long afterwards by mediocrity.
So as much as I hate to say it, for this narrow defeat to count for anything, they need to match it afterwards, and as we all know, that won't be easy given the squad's ever-increasing injury count plus the fact that the long-winding road that has been the 2011/12 campaign will be coming to an end for all involved.
Considering those mitigating factors, I may forgive them if the intensity levels aren't quite as high next Saturday, but as far as I'm concerned they will need to crank it up again in November when the Boks come a-knockin once more.
Then there's Conor Murray. This time he played a lot more of his natural game...rather than taking an age to fire off his pass every time, he still took an age but this time he often took it himself, mostly for a decent gain and of course one for our only try.
It's just that I'm still left wondering if we could have crossed their line more often with a more positive approach?
Yes, our tackling and our kick-chasing were superb, but I still won't be happy until I see Reddan or even Paul Marshall given the starting nod with Sexton for a few matches in a row to see if we can actually lay a knockout blow when we have our opponent on the ropes rather than trying to win on points.
We must not of course forget the significance of this occasion...Christchurch is a city with a fine rugby tradition and it was great to see it welcome the Test version of the game back after the tragedy of last year.
But purely from a rugby point of view, I doubt Steve Hansen will face anything near as stern a test on home soil when the inaugural Investec Rugby Championship kicks off in August. I'm also wondering...would Ireland’s starting with 9-10-12 combination the same as it finished in Christchurch give him something new to think about in Hamilton? Wouldn't be a provincial half-back pairing, so surely Declan would consider it? JLP
Also this weekend