Ireland Player Ratings v New Zealand – 3rd Test
15. Rob Kearney – 5
Unlucky to see yellow for what was a genuine attempt at an interception just prior to half-time, Kearney looked lively in the time that he wasn’t scrambling desperately as Ireland’s last line of defence. Unfortunately, though, that wasn’t for very long at all. Even so, 79 metres gained in a lost cause was admirable.
14. Fergus McFadden – 4½
Returned to the uncertainties of Eden Park as the hosts made hay in wider channels. Again, cannot be faulted for his harrying kick-chase but wingers need far more than that at the highest level.
13. Brian O’Driscoll (c) – 5
The skipper will be hugely disappointed. Perhaps at fault for some over-ambition in the opening stages when the contest was briefly alive, O’Driscoll was reduced to squawking at Romain Poite as the All Blacks ran rings around his charges. An evening to forget.
12. Paddy Wallace – 3
Oh dear. The Ulsterman’s missed tackles and poor distribution started a slide that no side in the world would have recovered from. Replaced by Ronan O’Gara after 54 minutes and must wish he stayed in Portugal.
11. Keith Earls – 5
As sparky in attack as he was in Auckland, popping up across the backline during the sparse moments that the tourists had ball in hand. Otherwise, far less encouraging. Chest-pressed like a rag-doll by Gear and had to leave the field for blood – a neat summation of Ireland’s hammering.
10. Jonathan Sexton – 4
Targeted both mentally and physically and came up a long way short. Sexton was coaxed into spiky spats by Liam Messam and Israel Dagg as New Zealand played on his petulant streak. Also failed to deal with a crowded channel over the course of the evening, to disastrous effect.
9. Conor Murray – 5½
Has clearly learnt a lot on this tour and didn’t let himself down on a torrid night behind a back row that was terrorised. Must have been very envious of Aaron Smith’s flawless platform but fought hard and kicked well.
1. Cian Healy – 6
The improvement at scrum-time continues. British and Irish Lions debates are for another day but Healy has definitely thrown his name into the hat this series, although a total skinning at the hands of a Dagg goose-step as he chased down his own kick in the second period was a snapshot of the match.
2. Rory Best – 5½
Burrowed bravely and found his men in 14 out of 15 lineouts. Inevitably, though, on a dreadful night for the men in green in the face of a rampant Kiwi backlash, that one mistake led to a try. Has not shirked a tussle with the gnarled Andrew Hore at all this month.
3. Mike Ross – 5½
Anonymous around the paddock but shored up the tighthead side of the scrum typically well. Faces a real battle with dynamic Declan Fitzpatrick for an autumn international berth.
4. Dan Tuohy – 6
Misunderstanding in the defensive line allowed Sonny Bill Williams to glide over far too easily but elsewhere, good. Remained dependable at set-piece and offered more of a running threat, with eight strong carries.
5. Donnacha Ryan – 6½
The best of a battered, broken bunch. Ryan again displayed the embarrassment of second-row riches that Munster posses and somehow emerged from this car-crash with his burgeoning reputation enhanced.
6. Kevin McLaughlin – 4
Missed four tackles and made just five more, a symptomatic statistic of Ireland’s evaporation. His nightmares in the near future may well feature Richie McCaw.
7. Sean O’Brien – 5
A tired performance saw O’Brien come a comprehensive second best to two-Test openside Sam Cane. An early turnover was a false dawn that quickly got stormy as one of Ireland’s series stand-outs was enveloped.
8. Peter O’Mahony – 4
Playing out of position, was ruthlessly exposed at the back of the scrum and disappeared into a Jamie Heaslip-shaped hole. There was little control at the base and a total of eight metres from 13 carries is a damning indictment for O’Mahoney’s very tough shift.
Everyone got a chance as Declan Kidney tried to halt the tide. Unfortunately, no one managed to stop what was a 80-minute procession towards the whitewash. Chris Henry was willing and Sean Cronin made a barrelling break close to the end, but miracles were needed long before they were introduced. The experience of Ronan O’Gara and Donncha O’Callaghan is still valuable, but Eoin Reddan must work harder before the autumn.
15. Israel Dagg – 8, 14. Ben Smith – 8, 13. Conrad Smith – 8, 12. Sonny Bill Williams 8½, 11. Hosea Gear – 8, 10. Aaron Cruden – 8, 9. Aaron Smith – 9; 1. Tony Woodcock – 6, 2. Andrew Hore – 7, 3. Owen Franks – 7, 4. Luke Romano – 8½, 5. Sam Whitelock – 8, 6. Liam Messam – 8, 7. Sam Cane – 9, 8. Richie McCaw – 8½
This was something close to vintage New Zealand as Steve Hansen’s charges made a mockery of the suggestion that they would be vulnerable after the close-shave in Christchurch. Some less familiar faces – Aaron Smith, Sam Cane and outstanding debutant Luke Romano – sparkled alongside the household names: Richie McCaw and Sonny Bill Williams were immense. Because of a frankly scary strength in depth – Beauden Barrett and Tamati Ellison can look forward to further involvement – a transitional period approaching 2015 will not mean a slackening of standards.