Hamilton – New Zealand 60 – 0 Ireland
Demolition: [noun] the action or process of demolishing or being demolished
Until Saturday just gone, 107 years of international rugby union had seen Ireland fail to register any points against New Zealand on two separate occasions, the last being at Lansdowne Road in Dublin in 1924. On a wet November Saturday afternoon, the All Blacks ground out a 6-0 win with a try to winger Kenneth Svenson and a penalty to Five Eighths Mark Nicholls. This game was also the first of nine test matches for the then 19 year old Fullback George Nepia.
Eighty eight years on and New Zealand once again held the Irish scoreless, adding a zero to that 1924 score line and running out winners sixty points to nil.
Of the twenty six tests played out between the two sides before the massacre on Saturday, there had only been three other times where the All Blacks had registered more than a half century of points against Ireland. However there had never before been a spread of sixty, the closest being the 59-6 drubbing at Athletic Park in 1992 when New Zealand scored 11 tries to one, although this was before tries were increased from four points to five.
Christchurch – New Zealand 22 – 19 Ireland
The collective breath of a nation was held for the longest time on Saturday evening. With only minutes to go in an intense test match against Ireland, a below par All Black team lost their fullback to a yellow card, for a late challenge on his opposite number, and left the game hanging in the balance.
At that point, on another gloomy summer’s morning in England, I was also thinking it was about time to switch the game off and let go of some steam. The old feeling had returned - which was usually reserved for Test matches against Australia or France; there was no way out and we were going to lose.
However, having a bit of a penchant for punishment, I decided to continue with the rugby Tourette’s and spent the final eight minutes screaming sporadically at the iPad.
In the end though, a relieved New Zealand managed to muscle their way down field - after Ireland fly-half, Jonny Sexton, had missed the opportunity to put his side into the lead – and scored the winning points via the left boot of Daniel Carter. As replacement Ben Smith kicked the ball into touch to end what was an enthralling and obviously sapping instalment of test rugby, every oval-ball loving New Zealander must have slumped back from exhaustion and wiped the sweaty beads of anxiety from their brow.
With all the talk about the youngsters coming through to support the ageing Daniel Carter there is one man who has his hand held high, throwing the selection process into further doubt.
In London, on a sweltering May afternoon, Harlequins fly-half Nick Evans guided his side to a convincing but nervy win over the perennial champions Leicester Tigers. Throughout the match the former All Black was majestic in nearly every facet of Harlequin's play. The mercurial general produced a brilliant display of pinpoint kicking, rangy runs unleashing his outsides and a persistent inside ball that let the big runners drive through the Leicester heart.
The question stands: when a New Zealand qualified player has played an instrumental role in achieving a major championship in world rugby, why can he not be selected to play for his country?
The NZRU holds firm on only selecting rugby players plying their trade on New Zealand shores. This rule doesn't even allow selection of NZ players from other SANZAR teams playing in the same competition (Super XV) which in my mind is where it needs to change.
This weekend saw the recent Irish power house Leinster storm to an outstanding win over a gritty but lacking Ulster side at Twickenham in the European Cup Final.
With an injection of Munster to this Irish tour trial match it is looking increasingly likely that Ireland Rugby team may not just challenge New Zealand this summer but be in the mood to take their first ever scalp against the All Blacks. Remember the tourists have already played together through the Six Nations, increasing the likely hood of a slick and gelling machine landing on our shores, spearheaded by their talisman Brian O’Driscoll. Remember they have never beaten us at home or abroad.
From afar Steve Hanson has selected and rewarded players for their recent form with some exciting youngsters thrown into the mix to keep an experienced side on their toes. Of the 21 World Cup winners in the training squad, the selection of a few snappy skilful players (Julian Savea is quite a bit more than snappy – a rapid and powerful 230 lbs 6’3” frame) will compliment a regimented Sir Grahame selection.
There are a multitude of options for the new All Black supremo. Does he stick with the tried and tested or follow the experimentation of his predecessor who started with a new combination in Xavier Rush and Jonno Gibbes to compliment the still young Richard McCaw and dismantle England in consecutive weekends. Who could forget Te Aroha’s All Black lock Keith Robinson spitting World Cup winner Laurence Dallaglio out the side of a maul like he was a U16 winger in the wrong place.
In my opinion, Hansen should keep the pack and inject a new direction with the backs. With all the talk about a rusty Daniel Carter, the selectors may still overlook an abundance of raw talent for the mercurial Cantabrian master at Fly Half. However there may be another route for Dan, much the same as what Darren Lockyer did for Brisbane when he shifted to stand off from sweeper.
Friday night saw the legendary Irish province Munster humbled by a rampant Ospreys side in the first Rabodirect Pro12 semi final at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea.
The Welsh Franchise, collaborated from the rugby unions of Neath and Swansea crushed a Hapless Muster side striped of their talismanic skipper Paul O’Connell over eighty pulsating minutes of clinical counterattacking rugby.
Munster struck early with a try and conversion to Fly Half Ian Keatley; from then on it was all Ospreys. New Zealand born Samoan Scrum Half Khan Fotuali’i was instrumental in all of the Welsh regions good work, scoring a try and creating another for scorching South African winger Hanno Dirksen. As he has shown all season, Fotuali’i again marshalled his troops excellently, allowing the powerful front eight to dominate the set piece whilst releasing the backs to outscore the Irish side six tries to one.
The Welsh national side has won the Grand Slam twice in the last five seasons under the tutelage of Hamiltonian Warren Gatland. With a forward pack consisting of at least five men boarding a plane to Australia in the summer, The Ospreys marked this game with an incredible defensive display optimized by Captain Alyn Wynn-Jones.
Harassed by veteran Ryan Jones and outstanding open side Justin Tupuric, Munster could not get their game going, with the ageing Ronan O’Gara constantly playing off the back foot. The Ospreys seemed to want it more and punished Muster consistently on the counter attack after smashing them in nearly every facet of the game. The final score 45-10 to the home team.
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