I recently read a post by Wayne Smith, where he talked about a period in 2009 when South Africa seemingly had the better of the All Blacks. When they analysed the games they lost to the Springboks they determined that their opponents were bringing a different level of passion to their encounters. The Irish very nearly did the same on Saturday, were it not for Dan Carter’s boot.
In Christchurch the tourists played to their strengths. A week earlier they had tried to play the World Champions at their own game, throwing the ball around and trying to attack with flair. Sure, in the 6 Nations their backs might be able to run riot against teams like England and Scotland, but in the Southern Hemisphere the backline play is a different level altogether, and they simply failed to make any inroads.
Ireland’s best chance of getting a result over New Zealand was always going to be on the back of passion and emotion, and on Saturday they brought it. Stung in to action by their humiliating defeat at Eden Park the tourists smashed in to every ruck, dug deep when they needed, and played a much more conservative, forward orientated game. If their tactical kicking had been slightly more accurate they may well have walked away with that elusive first win, but it wasn’t to be on the night.
I remember hearing John Leslie talking about how different the changing sheds in Scotland were to those in New Zealand. He recalled Scottish players being very laidback, and almost lacking focus, until 15 odd minutes prior to kick-off, when they’d start screaming and slapping each other. If you lack genuine quality on the field that kind of emotion will inevitably burn out, and you’ll only get a result on the back of it if you’ve managed to get yourself out to a decent lead while that adrenalin was present.
But Ireland do have quality players, and had they managed to establish any sort of meaningful lead on Saturday night they would more than likely have held on to win.
Passion is only one tool, and it will only get you so far. In some instances it gets you far enough to win, but on Saturday night it didn’t quite. At the end of the day, the All Blacks showed the composure of World Champions. While the Irish played well the All Blacks played poorly, but to play badly and win is still encouraging, and the All Blacks, and in particular the new caps, will learn a lot from the torrid clash in Christchurch.
Guest Author: Tim Cronin