Sam Cane: 'We'll do whatever we need to do to win test matches'
It was the visiting side who burst out of the blocks quicker, however, with right wing Keith Earls fighting his way over the line from close range after a string of Irish phases inside the 22. While the All Blacks had been able to repel a number of likely attackers – with Scott Barrett and Sevu Reece both putting in try-saving tackles – Ireland were still able to take a lead 5-0 lead after their first attacking opportunity just six minutes into the fixture.
It could have been a long night for New Zealand, given the efficiency with which the Irish were able to score, but the All Blacks were able to bounce back at the end of the first quarter through Jordie Barrett – and then started to build some significant ascendency.
“I think prior to that (first try) they’d punched off the lineout then they’d kept shooting back down the short side and that was a theme that continued for the rest of the game,” said captain Sam Cane following the win. “The importance of that is making sure that we number up really well, don’t get too many caught on one side and get exposed on the other side. That, and then just making sure that as the one or two defenders in the tackle, we’re doing a really good job, we’re not letting them get go-forward which therefore gets quick ball. Those were the two keys there.
“We always thought the first 20 of the test match was going to be pretty brutal; it would come down to the collisions, making smart decisions, a bit of discipline and the kicking game. All those things combined.
“I felt like we started to get a bit of momentum and a bit of a roll on in that second 20 and the game started flowing for us, started creating opportunities. There were some boys breathing pretty heavy at times out there in the back-end of the second half. Those are areas and times in games when we really back ourselves to work hard and make the most of any opportunities we can.”
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Following Barrett’s five-pointer, Sevu Reece, Quinn Tupaea and Ardie Savea all touched down in the final 10 minutes of the first half to take a 28-5 lead, giving the touring Irish an impossible task heading into the second spell.
Both teams managed to dot down twice more following the break, with the All Blacks holding their 23-point lead at the end of the match – despite having to endure wave after wave of attacking sets from the visitors as the match drew to a close. New Zealand copped a handful of penalties in the final minutes of the game (and replacement prop Karl Tu’inukuafe was sent to the sin bin for repeated team infringements) and managed to hold the opposition up over the goal line on numerous occasions – which Cane suggested was indicative of the passion his teammates have for the black jersey.
“Even though we knew the game was won … I think it just reflects pride and attitude and what it means to pull on an All Blacks jersey and play at home and defend our line like that – [we] held them up numerous times.
“We’ve got to sort out our discipline so we don’t end up down there too much but it was good to see.”
While having to make 50 more tackles than their opposition may not have been an ideal situation, Cane suggested they would take the wins however they could, even if had left them out of breath.
“We’ll do whatever we need to do to win test matches,” he said. “Throughout the squad, half the guys only played a couple of weeks ago in the Super Rugby final and then there’s a few that it’s been a little bit longer. And then it’s getting back into test match footy as well, which is another gear. It’s a good sign when we’re breathing hard – it means we’re working hard and that’s where the magic often happens.”
Having defeated Ireland at Eden Park, the All Blacks have now accomplished 10 years without defeat at the venue. NZ will once again take on the tourists next weekend under the roof in Dunedin.
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