Beaten skipper O'Driscoll dwells on positive

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 18/06/2012

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Brian O'Driscoll looked as though he might pass out as he fronted the media after Saturday's 22-19 loss to the All Blacks.

It wasn't just the Irish skipper's heart that was in danger of breaking, and he was whisked to hospital immediately for X-rays on his damaged cheekbone.

The centre summed up the tourists' night. Totally committed and unwilling to give in and he's promising they'll front again in Hamilton this weekend.

"The fact that we've got one more go next week is definitely a positive; that we don't have to finish our season on that," O'Driscoll said between pained sips of water.

"Some people will look on this as a crazy tour. Personally I think it's a great opportunity – it would be a huge disappointment if we weren't able to improve on today's performance [this Saturday].

"You want to sign off your season on as much of a high point as you can and we'll chase that elusive victory."

The Irish had spent a week brooding on their failure to front in Auckland and were spurred by a raucous visiting contingent in the crowd as they tried to put things right in Christchurch.

"We set standards for ourselves and trying to be a consistent team is being a good team. We dipped below those standards last week individually and collectively [in Auckland] and the jersey deserved more than that," he said.

"They were magnificent. We are a fortunate nation for a country so small. We show huge pride in where we come from. The supporters today [Saturday] were hugely outnumbered, but my God did they let themselves be heard."

So did the Irish players, but they might rue for some time blowing a rare opportunity to make history. They hadn't beaten the All Blacks in a rivalry stretching back to 1905.

The Christchurch locals threw their hearts behind the All Blacks, but one wonders if the emotion of all that's gone on in the earthquake ravaged city had mentally exhausted some of the home players before kickoff.

Certainly, neither side left anything on the Addington stadium pitch and All Blacks captain and No7 Richie McCaw looked as spent as O'Driscoll afterwards.

Only a Dan Carter drop goal denied what would have been a landmark draw.

Ireland won this match everywhere bar the scoreboard, and particularly at scrum time where props Cian Healy and Mike Ross were superb in all facets, but in truth they missed their chance in the first half, not the second.

Several times the visitors had the All Blacks stretched to breaking point, but could not capitalise out wide where players sought contact rather manipulating the numerical advantage.

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Ironically, it was a scrum penalty to the All Blacks in the final stages that gave them the field position from which they moved into striking distance.

Irish coach Declan Kidney followed Steve Hansen's lead and refused to blame referee Nigel Owens, who did a good job in a tense match.

"It did like I thought it can do," Kidney said of his set-piece before suggesting the contest, unlike the series, was far from over. "I congratulate New Zealand on winning the series, but I'm sure there will be a chess element to next week to try and out-manoeuvre [each other]."

Ireland also lost two players to injury for the final test; second five-eighth Gordon Darcy, who left the field with a tight calf, and No 8 Jamie Heaslip, who had a broken finger.

- The Dominion Post

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