Ireland’s interim head coach Michael Bradley pointed to Dan Carter’s break which led to Ma’a Nonu second half try as ‘a moment of genius’ and a crucial moment in Ireland’s downfall at the Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
The All Blacks foraged into a 21-11 lead in the 64th-minute when Ma’a Nonu followed up on Dan Carter’s midfield break and slid over the line for what turned out to be the match-winning try.
Played in rain-soaked conditions, Ireland viewed this Wellington encounter as a particularly good chance to end their losing run against the Kiwis, with Graham Henry’s squad currently going through a transitional phase.
However, with the likes of Richie McCaw, Carter and Neemia Tialata to the fore, the home side pulled clear having trailed on three occasions.
Ireland had a couple of early try-scoring opportunities – Tommy Bowe almost got over in the left corner and the pack were also held up over the line – before late call-up Paddy Wallace crossed to the right of the posts in the 20th-minute.
Speaking about that strong start, Ireland’s interim head coach Michael Bradley said: “I thought we stayed in the game and in the first couple of minutes we possibly would have been over the line twice but for the bounce of the ball, and that maybe would have been enough to carry us for the entire match on the basis of the conditions.
“But, to their credit, the All Blacks stuck at it as well, and they were patient and it probably took one moment of genius to create the critical line break in the second half.
“It was a difficult position (21-11 down) to come back from with the conditions and the quality of the opposition with 15 or 20 minutes to go.
“We have a very disappointed dressing room because we thought we had a really good chance to beat New Zealand, and we haven’t beaten New Zealand yet as a country, so it remains a target for us and we move forward from that.”
While New Zealand gradually began to dominate possession in the second half, Ireland had a good amount of territory but scoring chances were few and far between during the second 40 minutes and Bradley admitted his side gave away some costly penalties.
“It was frustrating watching from the sideline, because we conceded three or four penalties in the early part of the third quarter which allowed New Zealand out of situations where we possibly would have been able to create opportunities to score – be they kicking (opportunities) or running in another try.
“I think there were three or four penalties in that critical period when we released the pressure too easily. But outside of that I thought we did as well as one could expect.”
Of course, the severe match conditions which had Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll shivering throughout a post-match interview were a major talking point.
Bradley added: “It was a brutal game out there in terms of the conditions, which was a pity.
“It was a massive effort put in by everybody. Probably the hardest position to play out there was on the wing because it was so cold and you were running up and down getting no ball.
“We’ll pick ourselves up. There are very good players inside (in the dressing room) who have represented Ireland fantastically over the years. We’ve a big challenge next week against Australia in Melbourne.”