Ireland pushed the world champions to the brink for 80 minutes and dominated the key stats but at the end of the day, the All Blacks had the right answers. In a torrid Test, who stuck their hand up the highest?
Ben Smith 8/10
Best moments were during his ten minutes at halfback replacing the other Smith. Ben from accounts, the broken record, the mailman; the most trustworthy player on the planet and part of the reason Ireland kicked so little.
Israel Dagg 7.5/10
One retreating mistake aside, was a safe option under the high ball, made his tackles and sparked a few raids.
Malakai Fekitoa 7/10
Two tries and with such a heavy workload on defence did well to only miss a couple. Points off for his sloppy high tackle earning him ten in the bin.
Anton Lienert-Brown 7.5/10
ALB’s biggest Test so far and he came out on right side of ledger. Offloaded intelligently including one for final try but his biggest plays were crucial bootlacers throughout the match in the outside channels. Made a few mistakes under pressure but who didn’t?
Julian Savea 7/10
Promisingly threw off a handful of would-be tacklers in a match with few opportunities where he was covered well by the Irish slide. A couple of errors before being subbed (more tactical) with 20 minutes to play.
Beauden Barrett 9.5/10
It began with his pinpoint creative kicking and try saving tackle and continued for another 80 minutes. Throw in his searing break for a try, offload for match winner, numerous tackles of note, vital goal kicking and moments of sublime skill and surprising strength. Was the difference and so close to a 10/10.
Aaron Smith 3/10
Hindsight is great isn’t it. Shouldn’t have started as his head is nowhere near right to play Test match rugby at this time. The confidence is shot and his decision making and execution is way off kilter. Yellow card compounded poor kicking, handling and passing. Time for a holiday.
Kieran Read 6.5/10
Something not quite right. Plugged away in midfield, made most of his tackles but is making zero impact of old. His team’s ill-discipline is becoming an Achilles heel and he has to wear his share of that. Two bad missed tackles but more than enough good uns.
Sam Cane n/a
Set the tone with a brutal hit before his ankle got trapped under an Irish body. Smashed into rucks throughout his 17 minutes.
Liam Squire 8.5/10
Massive engine and he used a lot of diesel. Was everywhere the Irish runners were and although he couldn’t secure turnovers, was a big factor at the ruck. Deserves his after match lemonade and then some.
Sam Whitelock 8.5/10
Bound to miss some tackles when he made so many. Started to tire late in match but his contribution was monstrous. Lineout menace in the first half that forced Ireland to rethink.
Brodie Retallick 9/10
The heart of the black pack. Defensive work rate and tackling display was off the charts with numerous highlight reel hits. Accurate enforcer that was sorely missed in Chicago.
Owen Franks 6.5/10
Was found out on defence a few times including being bounced a few metres by Tadhg Furlong. Went high too often and his tackling technique wasn’t on song today yet he made his fair share of good ones. Played his role in much improved lineout.
Dane Coles 7.5/10
Had the lineout ticking over as it should and kept himself busy at the breakdown. Wasn’t his day for heroics and blew a potential breakaway try.
Joe Moody 7/10
Like Franks, was used a lot defensively and the scoreboard shows they did well. Lucky to get away with a neck roll.
Codie Taylor 6.5/10
Tackled well around the fringes. One dumb penalty in wrong area of field.
Wyatt Crockett 7/10
Big defensive effort from the first minute he got on however, missed Van Der Flier late on which could have become a lot worse.
Charlie Faumuina 7/10
Bad missed tackle to start his shift then settled into half an hour of snuffing out green jerseys.
Scott Barrett 7/10
Last quarter of an hour spent tackling and moving Irish bodies.
Ardie Savea 8.5/10
Best Test of the year and fledgling career. Multiple turnovers, tireless even at lost cause rucks and crucial tackles galore. Proved he can match up in a true Test but needs a few more kilos to dominate the bigger lumps.
TJ Perenara 7.5/10
Huge energy and impact. Made some boo-boo’s but his worth outweighed those. Should have started but that’s another story….
Aaron Cruden 6.5/10
Not much happening on attack but made up for it with some telling tackles on big men.
Waisake Naholo n/a
Last four minutes for Ben Smith, one run.