Ireland’s summer tour to New Zealand reached its mid-point with the second Test against the All Blacks. The tourists had the stronger start last week and it was more of the same in Dunedin this week, with an early break from Tadhg Beirne bringing them into the New Zealand 22, and after a minute of concerted pressure Andrew Porter managed to bash his way over for the opening try within 3 minutes. Johnny Sexton kicked the conversion and a penalty ten minutes later, and the All Blacks soon found themselves put in more of a hole when Leicester Fainga’anuku was sent to the bin for a late hit on Mack Hansen, though the 14 men successfully dealt with the resulting driving maul after Ireland kicked to the corner. Things were about to get even worse for the home side though, as a hurried kick from Beauden Barrett was countered by Sexton and as he was brought down, his support man Garry Ringrose was tackled early by Ofa Tu’ungafasi, who joined Fainga’anuku in the bin—though how a penalty try wasn’t given is beyond me as referee Jaco Peyper and TMO Tom Foley were clearly seeing a covering defender that didn’t exist. Ireland’s attack however suddenly lost all cohesion an accuracy, which allowed the All Blacks to hold out and clear their lines before welcoming back Fainga’anuku, but they found themselves almost immediately back down to 13 as Angus Ta’avao (on to cover Tu’ungafasi’s absence at the scrums) went high on Garry Ringrose, resulting in a head-on-head collision. With a penalty in the All Blacks 22, Ireland chose to go for the scrum to force the All Blacks into pulling 2 backs into the pack (due to the scrums going uncontested until Tu’ungafasi’s return, both teams must field a full 8-man scrum) but once again the Irish attack lacked accuracy and a knock-on from James Lowe allowed the defenders to once again clear their lines and get back to 14 men, though some confusion as to who could come back on as player had to be sacrificed for replacement props had led to Ardie Savea being unintentionally replaced for the rest of the game. However after weathering a storm, the All Blacks found themselves finishing the half in the Irish 22, and after James Ryan was sent to the bin for failing to retreat at a penalty, Beauden Barrett (perhaps inadvertently) kicked the ball as it squirted out of a ruck before darting through the defence to drop on the loose ball over the line for the most fortuitous of tries, with brother Jordie kicking a simple conversion to cut the Irish lead to 7-10 at the break.
It was the Irish on the attack again in the early stages of the second half, and when another strong carry from Beirne got them up to the All Blacks’ try line, it was Andrew Porter again who dotted down for his 2ⁿᵈ try of the night and 4ᵗʰ Test try. As a close half continued, Sexton kicked 2 penalties to put Ireland 16 points ahead with 13 minutes remaining. With 6 minutes remaining, the All Blacks found themselves at the Irish try line but were held up 3 times in quick succession. They kept fighting and Will Jordan was sent over out wide for the try, but with Jordie Barrett missing the touchline conversion, scoring 11 more points in 2 minutes proved an impossible task and the Irish hung on for an historic 12-23 victory, their first ever win over the All Blacks in New Zealand.
With the cards flying left right and centre in the first half, New Zealand found themselves in a sticky situation as a result of the laws being applied in the rarest of circumstances.
It all comes down to the law that a scrum must see 3 trained front rowers playing in the front row. This means that if a prop is given a yellow/red card, another player must be sacrificed in order to bring on a replacement front row. If it was a yellow card, you will generally see this swap reversed once the carded player comes back on: the original prop and the sacrificed player both coming back on while the replacement prop returns to the bench, though sometimes just the sacrificed player will come back on as a team chooses to make the change in props a permanent substitution.
Well that’s what initially happened here with Dalton Papali’i being sacrificed to bring on Angus Ta’avao during Ofa Tu’ungafasi’s yellow card. With Ta’avao then red carded during this 10 minute spell, the All Blacks had to sacrifice another player to bring on Aidan Ross, so chose to sacrifice Ardie Savea in the knowledge that one of their sacrificed players would return along with Tu’ungafasi in just 2 minutes.
However it was at the end of that 2 minute spell that their issue came to light. As Papali’i had been sacrificed due to the yellow card and Savea the red card, it was adjudged by Jaco Peyper that Papali’i had to be the one who returned to the pitch, leaving the All Blacks to play 50 minutes without arguably one of their best players.
Nowe first of all, I would love to know if that is the law in these rare situations, or if it was a spur of the moment decision from Jaco Peyper to get things going as quickly as possible. But if this is actually within the laws, then I think it needs looking at. Savea clearly wasn’t New Zealand’s first choice of player to sacrifice; the only reason he was removed was that their first choice had already been sacrificed. Personally, I feel that if there is a circumstance where multiple players have had to be sacrificed and only 1 can now come back on (ether because one of the sacrifices was for a red card, or simply that the other yellow card is still ongoing) the tea should be able to choose which of their sacrificed players comes back on. Otherwise, they are being penalised more than if they had lost a player in another position.
Releasing the pressure
While Ireland can arguably feel aggrieved that Leicester Fainga’anuku only received a yellow for his hit on Mack Hansen and that no penalty try was given for Ofa Tu’ungafasi’s early tackle on Garry Ringrose, they only had themselves to blame for not being further ahead at halftime.
As accurate as they were around the pitch, when they made it up to the All Blacks 22, things started to fall apart for them. Even before they found themselves with the numerical advantage, a great opportunity came to a disappointing end as Robbie Henshaw failed to collect the ball as he came steaming onto it in an attempt to crash through the defensive line off a scrum. Then twice against 13 men, all cohesion seemed to disappear and the ball was being flung anywhere and everywhere, giving the All Blacks defence a chance to recover an get in on the steal one time, while a second resulted in a Lowe knock-on. Then in the second half, James Lowe ended one chance by sailing a long pass into touch on the edge of the 22 when putting the ball through the hands may have been sufficient.
It’s almost as if the Irish were panicking when they got close to the line, trying to force the try too soon. Porter’s tries showed how patience and concerted pressure in the 22 will break down the All Blacks soon enough, the Irish just need to trust themselves more, take a deep breath and work through the phases to earn the try.