Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks - Carter calls for improvements

Dan Carter spoke of his relief at the victory and issued a warning that the All Blacks are going to have to improve markedly for the third test in Hamilton. Photo / Getty Images.
Dan Carter spoke of his relief at the victory and issued a warning that the All Blacks are going to have to improve markedly for the third test in Hamilton. Photo / Getty Images.

Suddenly the world champions don't look quite as good.

As coach Steve Hansen said afterwards, what a difference a week makes. Ill discipline, a lack of intensity, a scrum going backwards, injuries - the All Blacks looked vulnerable in Christchurch last night against a fired-up Ireland who deserved more from the game than yet another defeat after 107 years of trying for a wing.

The final scoreboard read 22-19 but it took every ounce of strength from the All Blacks to beat the Irish, plus a little bit of Dan Carter magic. He has kicked only five drop goals in his 87 tests, but never has one been more important.

Afterwards Carter spoke of his relief at the victory and issued a warning that the All Blacks are going to have to improve markedly for the third test in Hamilton.

Sure the All Blacks showed character to win after getting themselves in trouble at 19-19 with 11 minutes remaining, but so did the men in green, who put in a massive performance after last week's heavy defeat in Auckland.

Jonathan Sexton had a chance to kick Ireland into the lead with eight minutes left after Israel Dagg's late and high hit on Rob Kearney, but his effort fell just short.

Instead it was Carter who was the hero, his third drop goal attempt of the match sealing it with a mere 30 seconds on the clock.

"We practise those scenarios and it was lucky to get an opportunity in a game and seal a win because of it," he said.

"It's pretty rewarding but it's more relief than anything to be honest."

A solid All Blacks scrum - which wasn't that common in the second half - and a Richie McCaw carry put the All Blacks in a prime position and Carter did the honours with his left foot.

A minute earlier and a poor Piri Weepu pass forced him to attempt a drop goal with his less favoured right foot - luckily a deflection off an Irishman forced the five metre scrum and another opportunity.

"They brought a lot more of that than us," Carter said of Ireland's intensity. "It's going to be a big learning curve for a lot of our players to realise every time you put on the black jersey you have to lift that intensity from week to week, especially playing a side on consecutive weeks like this. They're going to learn from the previous week and we have to get our mental side a lot sharper this week."

Ireland refused to be pushed around. Their extra physicality - Carter sported several facial abrasions as a testament to the battle - meant the All Blacks couldn't get on the front foot.

Their try was scored by halfback Aaron Smith minutes after halftime, the little Highlander bundled over from close range for a seven-pointer which was similar to Ireland's only try of the night, also scored by a halfback, Conor Murray, and in a similar spot.

With Julian Savea struggling under the high ball and the Ireland midfield of Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll asking some serious questions, the All Blacks backs had a tough night. The constant penalties were another problem area for Hansen.

"It's difficult when it's raw," was skipper O'Driscoll's response when asked about positives.

"It's difficult when you've fought your way back into the game, you're level on the board and they're a man down. It's difficult right now to see all the positives but when we look over the video I'm sure there will be plenty of them and the fact that we have one more go next week is definitely a positive."

The All Blacks have other issues - lock Ali Williams has been ruled out for eight weeks due to a knee injury which needs surgery and No8 Kieran Read's regular head knocks are a worry. He was forced from the field in Christchurch and also took a knock to the head in Auckland.

Complacency among the All Blacks in Hamilton isn't likely to be a problem, however.

All Blacks 22 (Aaron Smith try; Dan Carter con, 4 pens, drop goal)

Ireland 19 (Conor Murray try; Jonathan Sexton con, 4 pens)

HT: Ireland 10-9

- APNZ

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