STEVE HANSEN SEEMED to be slightly confused on Sunday morning when he was reflecting on one of the big moments in the All Blacks’ defeat to Ireland.
He paid tribute to Devin Toner’s athleticism in highlighting what he believed was the second row’s save of a possible Ben Smith try in the second half, an act that Peter O’Mahony had actually pulled off to great acclaim.
The All Blacks were left dejected in Dublin. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
It was understandable from Hansen’s point of view, given that there were Irish players all over the pitch making big plays to frustrate, out-fight and out-think the Kiwis.
New Zealand were close on Saturday night, of that there should be little doubt, and had Kieran Read held the ball after blocking down Jacob Stockdale’s chip kick in the Ireland half, it’s likely the story would have finished very differently.
Instead, Stockdale bounced back a few minutes later as Ireland manipulated the Kiwi defence to create the space for their indomitable wing to chip into.
“It was well done and when they score a try like that you’ve just got to acknowledge the way they do that,” said All Blacks wing Ben Smith afterwards.
“As a team, they have got a lot of tricks up their sleeve, but we’ve got to be a bit better with how we defend those tricks and that is an example.
“I suppose they sort of manipulated us a wee bit with bringing myself up and then kicking in behind the space. It’s just well done and, as I said before, they played really well and deserved their win.”
No excuses from the Kiwis and though Hansen had a bit of what Joe Schmidt called “banter” in declaring Ireland as World Cup favourites, the All Blacks will be focusing their attention internally over the coming summer months back home.
CJ Stander enjoys Ireland’s win. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO
The defeat underlined more clearly than ever to Hansen that there is still work to be done.
“If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve tried to change how we want to play and we’re still stuck between the old way and the new way,” said Hansen on Sunday morning.
“We haven’t got it right yet. Did we think we were going to have it right by now? Probably not but we’ve got a bit of work to do over the summer.