By Gregor Paul in Dublin

The All Blacks are going to awake tomorrow with the cold, sobering realisation that they failed in Dublin to be the team they wanted to be and the players they aspire to be.

Then a second wave of hurt is going to land when they have to take on board that Ireland, as things stand, are a better team. More disciplined, more certain about what they are trying to do and the biggest kicker of all – better under pressure.

That's the bit that's going to hurt the most – that Ireland were mentally stronger. Ireland were more accurate and more composed and not just by a little bit. By quite a lot.


The All Blacks didn't have a talismanic leader to steer them through. They didn't have a player to lead the way by glorious example the way they so often do.

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Their big players stood up but not in the holistic way that was required. They were all eager, hungry and willing to make something happen. Theyd didn't hide or shirk, but none came up with the killer moment and if there was something particularly odd about this test, it was the strangely out of sorts performance from Brodie Retallick.

The big man worked miracles last week in London, but in Dublin he was driven back when he carried and finished the test by dropping a pass that ended a move that must have had the Irish fearing they were watching a remake of 2013.

There was no lack of effort or desire on the part of the All Blacks, but endeavour, however honest, can't be made to count if it is buddied up with a touch if headlessness.

All Blacks' Jack Goodhue and Brodie Retallick react after the final whistle. Photo / AP
All Blacks' Jack Goodhue and Brodie Retallick react after the final whistle. Photo / AP

And that's a fair term for how things were in the second half. The All Blacks gave themselves several chances to score tries – yet none came. They didn't have the level heads they needed to stay calm and trust that the score would come in the next phase and instead both Rieko Ioane and Beauden Barrett made high risk passes that were never on which cost them almost certain tries.

"I'd like to congratulate Ireland," said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. "They played outstandingly well and they took their opportunity and we didn't take ours.

"I thought our discipline let us down a wee bit in the first half. The effort was world class but the execution was not what we would have liked and we were just beaten by a better team.

"Out and out some of the penalties in the first half were dumb. Is that because we made a mistake and tried to fix it up. They were avoidable penalties so we will give ourselves an upper cut and try to fix things up.

"We tried to force things. Rieko made a break and we could have finished that off. But we threw it away. Beauds made a break but we didn't finish it off. That is the nature of rugby and when you play a good rugby side like Ireland it comes back to bite you."

How much doom and gloom should sit over this performance depends on how much everyone is willing to understand three things: firstly, the margins between the best teams are always this narrow.

Bundee Aki of Ireland celebrates on full time. Photo / Getty
Bundee Aki of Ireland celebrates on full time. Photo / Getty

Secondly, the All Blacks at least made their chances, they just couldn't finish. On another night they probably will be more accurate. They have plenty of evidence on their side that says they normally nail what they start and even more that after they stuff up, they come back better and harder.

And thirdly, if anyone wants to draw from Ireland's victory that they are now favourites for the World Cup, they may be getting a fraction ahead of themselves.

They were brilliant on the night but even their own coach Joe Schmidt was at pains to stress that the win means nothing in the context of the World Cup.

"You will make them favourites," joked Hansen when he was asked if Ireland were now the team to beat at the World Cup.

"What it does do is make them as of now the number one team in the world and I guess that does make them favourites [for the World Cup].

"Our decision-making wasn't as good as it could have been. They are disappointed. You don't win as many rugby matches as this team has and then when you get beaten it hurts.

"Regardless of who you play and how well the opposition play. People are gutted and that is the way it should be when you are beaten."