Don’t let anyone tell you it was ‘only’ an Autumn International. Representation always mean something. Whether it’s a Division 8 football match or this. Taking on the greatest Rugby Union team on the planet. There was a time, not all that long ago, when Ireland – and many more like them – would’ve been beaten before the Haka had commenced. Those days are gone…
That is not meant as any form of brash arrogance or the denigration of our awesome opponents. Rather, an illustration of Ireland’s elevated status in the game. Moreover, it is the manifestation of the depth which Andy Farrell and his star-studded backroom team have at their disposal. Make no mistake about it, those who entered from the bench – Tadhg Beirne and Pete O’Mahony and Joey Carbery – who brought with them the warrant for the All Blacks demise.
New Zealand haven’t become a bad side overnight. Nowhere near it. Remember, the silver fern ran in four tries in the last quarter last week against Wales. And in flashes here, they reminded an ebullient Lansdowne Road crowd of just that fact. Both when hooker Codie Taylor – who was lucky to stay on the field after an atrocious high tackle on Johnny Sexton – and Will Jordan went in for tries that to be honest were a bit on the soft side.
In truth though, they were the only releases the visitor’s pressure valve got all day. Sexton being askew with the conversion from James Lowe’s ‘major’ meant the scoreboard read 5-10 after 40 minutes. However, as it was for the day that was in it, normal order was restored when Garry Ringrose and Andrew Conway combined superbly and put a five-pointer on a plate for the hard working Ronan Kelliher four minutes after the break.
The two first half lapses aside, Ireland dominated their highly vaunted opponents in literally ever sector of the field here. In Tadhg Furlong (above) they possess the best prop forward in the world at present, and if Caelen Dorris continues along the same career trajectory he’ll be coming into similar conversations regarding back row forwards.
The Mayo colossus has been beset by ongoing injury problems since bursting onto the scene a couple of years ago but after a phenomenal 80 minutes here he demonstrated not only what Leinster and Ireland have been missing in his absense but also just how pivotal he could be to both for a long time to come.
Such was the impact the Connacht native had on the momentous occasion that when he was withdrawn, it wasn’t unreasonable to assume or at least fear there would be a diminishment in the overall output of Andy Farrell’s side, but not a bit of it.
Indeed, the troops seemed genuinely buoyed by the infusion and contributions of the three Munster lads. From Joey Carbery nailing a vital placed ball within seconds of coming on, to both Beirne and O’Mahony manufacturing massive turnovers. Each of which were converted into crucial scores by the Athy man.
One of which, on the paint of the half way line, proved that more than one JC could perform miracles under pressure!