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Ireland player ratings vs All Blacks | Autumn Nations Series

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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This has quickly become the norm and not the elusive scalp for Ireland as they defeated the All Blacks for the third time in five meetings. They had waited more than 100 years for a breakthrough success but now they are like the buses, arriving with great frequency. For it was Chicago in 2016, then Dublin in 2018 and now Dublin again in 2021 following a performance that brought the house down.

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Ireland were immense in taking a massive step forward in proving that Andy Farrell is indeed head coach material at Test level and the only mystery about it all was why they have to do it by coming from behind. They had dominated the first half yet finished that opening period 10-5 behind despite a James Lowe try and it took a monumental second-half effort to ensure all their excellent work didn’t go to waste. 

Tries from Ronan Kelleher and the unstoppable Caelan Doris quickly flipped the scoreboard and there was no denying them their deserved victory, the All Blacks left frustrated by a disallowed try for a forward pass before replacement Joey Carbery kicked Ireland clear to win 29-20. Cue pandemonium. Here are the RugbyPass Ireland player ratings live from Aviva Stadium:  

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15. HUGO KEENAN – 8
An Andy Farrell selection favourite, he opened with a lovely early step and was soon reliable under the high ball from Beauden Barrett before spilling a second tidy up. Gave Lowe the perfect assist for him to make the corner on 14 minutes. Kept his concentration going for the full 80 as evidenced by a late intervention that further sapped the All Blacks fight.  

14. ANDREW CONWAY – 7 
Bagged a hat-trick last week but chances to finish didn’t materialise here as he frequently had to cut inside, as seen in the lead-up to the early second-half Kelleher try. Had stoked up the crowd with his early hunting down of Sevu Reece who had gathered a dropping ball but he was penalised soon on another chase. Brave when double tackling on his own line with Garry Ringrose to prevent Jordie Barrett from scoring. Kept working hard and remained heavily involved which was vital. 

13. GARRY RINGROSE – 8
Looked decent defensively in the tackle versus Japan but this was the litmus test. Shed claret when stopping Jordie Barrett from bagging a try and he continued this diligence when up early to mow down Will Jordan not long into the second half. Carried well and helped to keep the All Blacks defence guessing what was coming next. 

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12. BUNDEE AKI – 8 
Ball-dislodging tackle near halfway on Rieko Ioane in the opening exchanges on halfway set the tempo for his powerful effort. He was pivotal to keeping Ireland on the front foot, even when in the wrong areas of the pitch. Look at his carry off a defensive five-metre that was then rucked and safely kicked clear to the ten-metre line. A pity he didn’t go the distance, the midfielder pulling up with a lame leg on 72 to be replaced by Keith Earls.  

11. JAMES LOWE – 9
Came into the game with a reputation for defensive weakness but showed guile when getting to Jordan in time on eleven minutes off a Beauden Barrett cross-kick. Then demonstrated his admirable finishing prowess by stooping perfectly low to dive in at the corner on 14 minutes. Finished the opening half just inches short of registering a second in the same corner. Proceeded to execute the loop for the Kelleher try in the second half and while he will be annoyed he was caught by the try-letting Jordan chip and chase, it was his tackle on Ioane that shut the door on the All Blacks.    

10. JOHNNY SEXTON – 9 
Supreme a week ago, he was in the crosshairs of the All Blacks all through the opening half and was subjected to some late tackling, one by Codie Taylor that was yellow carded and another Ethan Blackadder that Luke Pearse only awarded a penalty for. Was successful with the first decision to go to the corner with a penalty that could have been kicked for points, but tries didn’t materialise on the other occasions when lineouts were preferred to shots at goal. That would have been costly but for his team’s rampant second-half effort. Was also admonished for verbals to the referee on 22 minutes. Kept firing his team on until exiting on 65 minutes for a HIA after another bang. Carbery didn’t let the tempo drop, though.

9. JAMISON GIBSON-PARK – 9
Fully deserving of his start following last week’s first-half incision and his slick passing was on point again here, regularly propelling Ireland’s ball carriers over the gain line. Was another Irish player who had a try flash before his eyes in the frantic period of pressure just before half-time. Came out swinging in the second half, his highlights reel including a 50:22, snuffing out the danger on a Reece chase and much more. His importance to the team was confirmed by Farrell allowing him to play 72 minutes before Conor Murray was summoned.  

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1. ANDREW PORTER – 8 
Eager to contribute and his frequent involvement was an illustration of how much more the Irish props are now contributing away from the set-piece. The pity was that it was his needless penalty that fractured pressure on the half-hour, giving the All Blacks the lineout ball they ran in for a try against the run of play.  Courageously played for 76 minutes before Cian Healy was introduced. 

2. RONAN KELLEHER – 8
Brilliant awareness to snuff out an All Blacks try chance with an interception near the line, he frequently carried enterprisingly but was caught out by the eagled-eyed officials for taking a second movement on his knees, a ploy that scrubbed out the first-half try scored by Tadhg Furlong. Deliciously made up for it with his 44th-minute try and he kept smashing into the game until the 59th minute when exchanged for Rob Herring. 

3. TADHG FURLONG – 8
World-class again in so many aspects, never mind being his usual composed self at the set-piece. Wrangled a scrum penalty off Joe Moody on 24 but was mugged on the double just minutes later. Firstly, he had his own try ruled out for an illegal Kelleher movement and was ten static when Dalton Papalii broke in between him and Kelleher to set up Codie Taylor’s try. Bounced back from that slip, though, and was immense in getting Ireland into the lead before giving way to Finlay Bealham on 65 minutes.  

4. IAIN HENDERSON – 7 
Did the ugly stuff so well but was done for the penalty on 18 minutes that gave the All Blacks their opening points after Ardie Savea had carried. It resulted in a discussion with referee Luke Pearce before the restart. He stuck at it but was hooked on 48 minutes for Tadhg Beirne, who played like a whirlwind in completing the job on the visitors.   

5. JAMES RYAN – 7 
Similar to Henderson, this was a performance where his best work was done without much kudos coming his way. Carried well in traffic when needed and he kept trucking in an intense fashion to ensure the likes of Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock didn’t feature all that much.    

6. CAELAN DORIS – 9
Began with the rush that had the All Blacks knocking on six minutes, he was impactful on the carry the whole way through. Admirably showed he is no longer an inexperienced young buck and now has the armoury similar to Stephen Ferris in his Grand Slam winning heyday in 2009. His increasing alertness over what goes on at this level was evident in how he shut down Jordan on 23 minutes attacking near the scrum and winning the turnover. His fabulous 51st-minute score crowned his all-action effort.

7. JOSH VAN DER FLIER – 7
The least prominent member of the Irish back row but that was no slight on an afternoon where they all stepped up and rocked the All Blacks. Again showed how he is becoming more adept at getting on the ball, the main deficiency in his game when breaking through under Joe Schmidt. Now possesses an all-court game to be proud of. Played 59 minutes before Peter O’Mahony carried on the great work.   

8. JACK CONAN – 9
Brutally effective in the carry, his handling skills were also a thrill in carrying the fight to the All Blacks when needed. It was his drive and vigour early in the second half that helped to ensure Ireland turned around the five-point gap at the break to quickly make it a match-winning lead they didn’t relinquish.     

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