'We have to celebrate': Revenge served for Beauden Barrett in 'brutal' quarter-final
Beauden Barrett silenced doubters in a terrific quarter-final performance against Ireland. Having made no secret of his desire for revenge against the team that bested New Zealand in a three-game series last June, victory tasted extra sweet for the 32-year-old.
Criticisms of the first five-eighth-turned fullback’s kicking game have been left in the pool stages as Barrett’s game-driving delivered favourable field position and crucial attacking opportunities throughout all 80 minutes of the match.
Named in the 22 jersey, Damian McKenzie, along with halfback replacement Finlay Christie, was forced to watch the dramatic dying moments from the sideline as head coach Ian Foster backed the fitness of his starters to deliver in a tense final quarter.
Spurred on by the memory and lingering emotion of that famous Steinlager Series defeat, Barrett and the All Blacks delivered a complete performance.
“Absolutely,” Barrett stated on Sky Sport when queried if the win was extra special given last year’s results. “There was plenty of fuel from last year’s home series loss and that really hurt. That’s been driving a lot of us throughout this whole week, if not this year.
“We knew that there’s a quarter-final against either Ireland or South Africa, if we did well in the pool stages and we got our chance tonight.”
The nature of the match was fierce and a clear display of New Zealand’s growth over the past 15 months since the Steinlager Series. Vastly improved discipline, breakdown accuracy and set piece performance were all tested and withstood the Irish muscle.
Barrett credited his forwards for their work and the team’s resilient mentality in overcoming any adversity the match threw their way.
“It was brutal, win or go home and we knew what it meant. It showed in the last few seconds, however many phases it took to finally finish that game.
“It’s been a huge week, the preparation has been bone-deep. There was just so much on it.
“A lot of trust and belief will come from this performance and we worked hard for that during the week. What we saw out there in those dying minutes are what we were working hard on during the week, defending multi-phase. They’re a quality team.
“There was some problem-solving to do, our scrum was huge. Not having to put a back on the side of the scrum when we had the ball in hand was great for us, we even got a scrum penalty at one time.
“Aaron (Smith), when he got yellow carded he said he wasn’t going to be defined by that, he came on and defended his heart out in those dying stages.
“We showed a lot of ticker, a lot of trust in those throughout the whole game to be fair. They’re a quality team and we respected them a lot.”
He observed that the All Blacks were more familiar with the Irish team than they were against England, offering a significant advantage compared to 2019’s shortcoming.
Barrett also reflected on learnings from 2019 after the match, emphasising the importance of celebrating the quarter-final win.
“We have to celebrate tonight and really get around each other and enjoy this win.
“We can’t get on next week’s wave too quick because that’s what we learned last World Cup. We’ve got to build slowly and make sure we bring the intensity this time next week.”