Ireland coach Declan Kidney conceded that the better team won and that his side had gotten out of jail on a couple of occasions when going down to a 22-3 defeat to the All Blacks in Saturday’s GUINNESS Series 2008 Test.
New Zealand played very well and they also won the field position battles by a big way, because most of the game was played inside our half,” Declan Kidney said.
“You could only defend for so long. New Zealand took their opportunities well. There was probably two or three more that they could have got but through resilience, our guys managed to hold them out.”
While praising Ireland’s defensive efforts, which kept the All Blacks to three tries, Kidney said it was almost inevitable that the defensive line would give way in the second half given the high tackle count of the opening period.
“All the stats in all the matches show you that you’re only going to be able to make so many tackles before you concede a try,” he said.
“We were well stacked up there coming up to half-time. I thought we probably got out of jail a little bit. We were a bit shrewder there in the last six minutes got the penalty.
“But they got into field position – we’ll look at how that happened – and they scored a try.”
That penalty try, scored in first half injury-time, shot the tourists into a 10-3 half-time lead and had Ireland down a man with winger Tommy Bowe in the sin-bin for a professional foul.
“It was probably as expensive (a score to concede) as you get. As everyone knows it’s a great time to score before half-time.
“Also it cost us a man for the start of the second half, even though that was nullified somewhat by their prop (Tony Woodcock) getting sin-binned.”
As deflating a defeat as it was, in front of a near-capacity crowd, Kidney feels Ireland will benefit from the experience of playing Graham Henry’s Grand Slam hopefuls and that his players certainly have a lot more in the tank for the season ahead.
“There’s an awful lot more in us. I think we need to just look at that first 30 minutes as to how we played it, because we put ourselves under a lot of pressure.
“When you’re playing the top sides, when they come here they want to silence the crowd by putting in a big effort at the start.
“We played a lot of the game in our half, that probably kept everybody a little bit quiet but we had started to put people in behind a little bit (as the half went on).
“Had it been 3-3 at half-time and we had got out of jail, then you never know.
“When you’re playing the best side in the world, they’re the things that you have to go after and look to improve. We’ll do that.
“The more often we play these guys, the better we’ll become. There’s a little bit of a different emphasis on some aspects of play in the Southern Hemisphere and we just need more and more exposure to that.”
Asked what he thought of Tomas O’Leary’s performance at scrum half, the Ireland coach was pleased with what he saw from the 25-year-old.
“Tomas did a lot of good things. He was under pressure as any scrum half would be playing a lot of the game in his own half.
“I thought he did reasonably well. It was his first start at number 9 in an international, having had two minutes before on the wing.
“I knew coming into it that he hadn’t got a huge amount of game-time under his belt. He’ll be the better for having this experience under his belt. He’s certainly put his hand up for further selection.”
Kidney also confirmed that there were two injuries from the game in the Irish camp – forwards Paul O’Connell and Rory Best, who were both replaced during the second half, are nursing a dead leg and a calf injury respectively.