All Blacks Narrowly Edge Ireland

Ireland came agonizingly close to finally beating the All-Blacks for the first time ever in Christchurch last Saturday before a last gasp Dan Carter drop goal secured a 22-19 win for the world champions.

Defeat was a bitter pill for the Irish team to take when it looked for so long like they would get a draw at least after an early Conor O’Mahony try and some fine kicking from Jonathan Sexton set them up nicely on the scoreboard.

Captain Carter had other ideas, however, and took advantage late on when referee Nigel Owens
A week after they were crushed in the first test, this was better from the tourists.

Irish skipper Brian O’Driscoll echoed the disappointment within his dressingroom when he said, “We set standards of ourselves and we’re trying to be a consistent team. We dipped below those standards last week, individually and collectively.

“The jersey deserved a little bit more from us and we talked about that this week. Trying to restore a bit of that (pride) in the jersey and I think we did manage to do that. We fell at the final hurdle still.

“It is difficult when you have fought your way back into the game and got level on the board. They were a man down for the last seven or eight minutes.

“It is difficult to take any positives from the performance but I’m sure, when we look back, there will be plenty of them. We have another goal for the third test on Saturday and we don’t have to finish our season on that result.”

Irish out-half Ronan O’Gara has dismissed claims from the New Zealand camp that his team played as well as they could last Saturday, and believes there is more to come in this weekend’s final test.

“Ireland did play well the other night,” claimed O’Gara. “The All Blacks were probably in second gear and they had every reason to be in second gear because of the way we played at Eden Park. It is only natural.

“It shouldn’t take something like that to give us a boot up the backside. We have our standards, have our values, for, a lot of us, the last 10 or 12 years.

All-Blacks coach Steve Hanson had claimed after last weekend’s that Ireland had reached their peak for this tour but O’Gara disagreed.

He said, “A lot of that, you can read into it after an event. You could say that it is condescending but I don’t think it was meant like that.

“We all speak with emotions sometimes and that was what Steve felt at the time. I would have no problem with that. Steve was probably relieved to get over the finish line as you could see an edge to them.”

Like O’Gara, Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton is keen to make amends and finally beat the Kiwis in this Saturday’s third and final test.

Sexton, who missed a late penalty before Carter snatched victory for the All-Blacks with a drop goal last weekend, could start at center this time around and is keen for the action to get underway.

He said, “We were pretty disappointed with the result last weekend. It is a tough one to take but we’ve got one more test against them so we need to bounce back one more time.”

Graeme Close

Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington came so close to lifting the US Open title on Sunday – 48 hours after the 2011 champion Rory McIlroy had missed the cut.

McDowell finished tied second and Harrington tied fourth after a final day of drama at San Francisco’s Olympic Club saw the unheralded Webb Simpson emerge victorious.

The 2010 winner McDowell missed a 20 foot birdie putt on the 18th to force a playoff with Simpson, while Harrington’s hopes disappeared when he found a bunker as he chased a birdie at the last.

“There’s a mixture of emotions inside me right now. Obviously disappointment, deflation, pride but mostly just frustration, because I hit three fairways today,” McDowell said afterwards.

“But I’m proud of the way I hung in. The way I birdied 11 and 12 and the putt I made on 17 and just to give myself half a chance on 18.

“And that putt, it was weird, because I hit that putt in practice and it bumped left and it moved right of the hole and I just didn’t do that today.

“It was grind and a slog, but I’ll be back. I did a lot right, but this course does not allow you to get into a rhythm and it was a struggle.”

Harrington said, “I’m disappointed but the good thing is I was really in contention out there and that has to be a positive to take from the week.”

A disappointed McIlroy said after missing the cut, “You really have to be so precise out there. We’re just not used to playing this sort of course week in, week out. You have to adapt and adjust and I wasn’t able to do that very well.”

Leinster duo Jamie Heaslip and Gordon D’Arcy are on the way home from Ireland’s tour to New Zealand after picking up finger and calf injuries respectively. D’Arcy has been replaced in the squad by Ulster’s Paddy Wallace for Saturday’s final test against the All-Blacks.

Shay Given Move

Ireland's goalkeeper Shay Given will sit down with those closest to him before he makes any decision on his international future.

The Donegal born stopper endured a horrid European Championships when he conceded nine goals.
Questions were asked about Given’s fitness after recent injury problems, and speculation is rife that he could bring the curtain down on his time with Ireland after a record 125 caps.

But Given, speaking after Monday night’s 2-0 defeat to Italy, insisted, “It’s too soon straight after the game to make any rash decisions.

“I’ll sit down with my kids and my wife and my family when I get home and just see what the best plan of action is.

“Obviously, we’ve got a new manager in at Aston Villa - I’d like to speak to him as well and see what the best plan is for everyone.”

Likewise winger Damien Duff, captain against Italy on the night of his 100th cap, refused to contemplate his own situation.

Duff, now 33, said, “I’ve said I’ll play until 100 for Ireland if they’d have me.

“Sometimes, it doesn’t work like that. So we’ll see. It’s more important to talk about the team and how we’ve done over the past month. Obviously disappointing -- weren’t good enough.”

Defender Richard Dunne, 32, said after his 76th international appearance, “It’s very hard because we’ve been preparing for this and dreaming. You don’t want to be thinking about the finish.”



Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll is tackled by New Zealand's Dan Carter during the match on Saturday.