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Ireland left frustrated and tryless as All Blacks edge brutal battle in Dublin
Beauden Barrett was involved in all three of the Kiwi’s tries at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland 9

New Zealand 21

Murray Kinsella reports from the Aviva Stadium

IRELAND GAVE IT a fearsome lash, a physically brutal effort, but everything seemed to be against them.

Losing Robbie Henshaw, Johnny Sexton and CJ Stander to injury inside the opening 22 minutes meant this was always going to be an uphill battle.

Jaco Peyper, meanwhile, is unlikely to be welcome back on Irish soil for some time.

Sean O'Brien reacts Dan Sheridan / INPHO Sean O'Brien shows his dismay at an error. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

New Zealand earned two yellow cards for Aaron Smith and Malakai Fekitoa, but could easily have had at least another one – a blatant penalty under their own posts in the first half denying Ireland a genuine try-scoring chance.

The All Blacks’ discipline throughout the game – a penalty count of 14 against Ireland’s four – was atrocious.

While the refereeing – and the TMOing – will be a major talking point in the aftermath of what was a genuine battle in the Aviva Stadium, Ireland’s inability to create those gilt-edged try-scoring chances was even more costly.

Two weeks after scoring five tries against the All Blacks in Chicago, Ireland’s attack struggled to break Steve Hansen’s side down. There was no shortage of carriers willing to hammer into the Kiwi defenders, but Ireland lacked a creative spark.

Their failure to score a try had a major influence on the game.

While the scoreline may give the impression of a strong New Zealand victory, this contest was fought for in inches. The collisions were on a scale that had previously not been seen in Test rugby in 2016. Certainly, the All Blacks have not faced as physical and aggressive a challenge this year.

Beauden Barrett with Andrew Trimble and Josh van der Flier Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Moments of class from man of the match Beauden Barrett – centrally involved in all of their three tries – were crucial, while the Kiwi out-half also kicked three from three off the tee.

Sean O’Brien was superb for Ireland, carrying explosively throughout, while Jamie Heaslip had an excellent game at number eight. Tadhg Furlong was world-class again, as Devin Toner underlined his importance in the second row.

Though O’Brien signalled his intent with an early breakdown turnover, it was the Kiwis who got off to a scintillating start, stretching Ireland – lacking in linespeed – over and back across the pitch with their structured width.

Liam Squire and Kieran Read made powerful carries to bring them to within striking range, before a series of pick and jams tightened the Irish defence. Calmly, Barrett stroke a cross-field kick to Fekitoa wide on the left, where he had enough space to beat Conor Murray and stretch through the despairing tackle of Jared Payne to score.

Barrett converted for an early 7-0 lead.

Malakai Fekitoa celebrates after scoring a try Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland responded thunderously, as Heaslip ran right through opposite number Read to break the Kiwi line, then offloading to O’Brien. The Tullow man rampaged over the tryline but a superb effort from Barrett denied him the try.

From the resulting scrum, Stander was held up over the tryline before Ireland opted for the three points through Sexton, with a penalty advantage as the Kiwis crept offside.

Henshaw was the first man lost to injury, concussed by the shoulder of Sam Cane in a tackle that brought only a penalty for Ireland – though the Aviva crowd aggressively demanded a yellow card.

Garry Ringrose came on for Ireland cap number two – 70 minutes against the All Blacks.

Barrett almost created another Kiwi try moments later, chipping over the Ireland defence and gathering in the ball himself before almost feeding Israel Dagg to run clear. However, Andrew Trimble did enough to get a hand to the ball in an intercept attempt, knocking-on in the process.

Barrett struck immediately from the resulting midfield scrum, burning Murray on the outside with his startling pace. The try looked certain at that point but Barrett rather arrogantly allowed Sexton to engage a tackle in the in-goal area.

Sexton looked to have done enough to prevent the All Blacks out-half from touching down – admittedly tackling Barrett high – but TMO Jon Mason of Wales ruled that Barrett had dotted down to resounding boos.

Barrett’s conversion made it 14-3, but the Kiwis then lost scrum-half Smith to the sin bin for coming in the side of a ruck rather blatantly.

CJ Stander tackled by Malakai Fekitoa Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

But Ireland had their own costly loss in that same minute of play, Sexton forced off with an apparent hamstring injury. Cane was forced to retire simultanesouly, with Ardie Savea sent onto the All Blacks’ openside flank.

Stander was the next man to be forced off for Ireland, suffering a head injury in a high tackle from Dagg and failing his HIA to bring Josh van der Flier into the fray permanently.

An Ireland scrum under the Kiwi posts appeared to be heading for the tryline with a huge shunt, but the All Blacks’ back row blatantly and cynically broke off early to hassle Heaslip.

Penalty Ireland, but no yellow card from referee Peyper when it seemed obvious. Replacement Paddy Jackson slotted the three points to bring Ireland back to 14-6.

O’Brien’s influence continued to shine for Ireland, but they found it increasingly difficult to break the visitors’ defence down.

There was a brief scare for Jackson in the 30th minute, as he dropped the ball in his own 22, but the TMO review showed that Barrett had knocked the ball on in the tackle and his try was ruled out.

Some big maul defence and a sublime choke tackle from Jared Payne, van der Flier and captain Rory Best stymied the All Blacks’ attacking efforts in the closing minutes of the half, leaving Ireland trailing by eight points at the break.

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Johnny Sexton reacts as Beauden Barrett scores a try 19/11//2016 Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland began the second half with an extended period of pressure in the New Zealand 22, as the likes of Heaslip and O’Brien continued to make meaty carries in a very direct ball-carring game plan.

The reward, however, wasn’t there as Ireland battered away.

The All Blacks were reduced to 14 men again on the 48-minute mark as Fekitoa committed a shocking high tackle on Zebo, wrenching the Ireland left wing around the neck in a highly-dangerous fashion.

That penalty gave Ireland another opportunity from a five-metre lineout, but again they were wasteful as O’Brien knocked-on in a maul peel play.

Another high tackle from Owen Franks, in a long list of them from the All Blacks, gave Ireland more five-metre access shortly after, but this passage ended with van der Flier’s offload attempt going forward.

A superb breakdown turnover penalty earned by Payne allowed Ireland to draw the scoreline to 14-9, as Schmidt opted to send in Cian Healy and Iain Henderson for the closing 20 minutes.

But the Kiwis’ threat only grew. First, Dagg thrust down the right and very nearly found replacement Aaron Cruden with an offload inside, and then the All Blacks struck for their third try with 65 minutes played.

Jaco Peyper shows Malakai Fekitoa a yellow card James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

They returned an Ireland kick and eventually centre Anton Lienert-Brown’s offload sent Barrett into space, before he offloaded to sub scrum-half TJ Perenara. A third offload from Perenara, which was flat if not forward, released Fekitoa for his second score.

Ireland captain Best pleaded with Peyper to check the final pass – ‘There’s too much at stake here’ – but the South African referee was unwilling to do so and Barrett’s conversion made it 21-9.

Schmidt’s men continued to bring huge effort, with van der Flier breaking the line on one thrilling occasion, but again their work rate was in vain.

Ireland scorers:

Penalties: Johnny Sexton [1 from 1], Paddy Jackson [2 from 2]

New Zealand scorers:

Tries: Malakai Fekitoa [2], Beauden Barrett

Conversions: Beauden Barrett [3 from 3]

IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw (Garry Ringrose ’11), Simon Zebo; Johnny Sexton (Paddy Jackson ’18), Conor Murray (Kieran Marmion ’73); Jack McGrath (Cian Healy ’58), Rory Best (captain) (Sean Cronin ’68), Tadhg Furlong (Finlay Bealham ’68); Donnacha Ryan (Iain Henderson ’58), Devin Toner; CJ Stander (Josh van der Flier ’22), Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.

NEW ZEALAND: Ben Smith (Waisake Naholo ’73); Israel Dagg, Malakai Fekitoa, Anton Lienert-Brown, Julian Savea (Aaron Cruden ’58); Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith (yellow card ’17 to ’27) (TJ Perenara ’58); Joe Moody (Wyatt Crockett ’48), Dane Coles (Codie Taylor ’68), Owen Franks (Charlie Faumuina ’52); Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock; Liam Squire (Scott Barrett ’68), Sam Cane (Ardie Savea ’18), Kieran Read (captain).

Referee: Jaco Peyper [SARU].

Attendance: 52,500.

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