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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Kidney: a Black day for Ireland

COACH rues 'horrible' end to season after biggest loss to New Zealand

Three Tests. Three defeats. One heroic evening in Christchurch book-ended by two humiliations.

"We said we'd find out a lot about ourselves over the course of the three weeks. We've found a lot of things about ourselves that we don't like, but now we've found them out," reflected Ireland coach Declan Kidney.

"If you take a look at the first 20 minutes in all three games, there's a complete contrast.

"In the middle one we didn't turn the ball over. In the first one and third one, we did.

"Once New Zealand goes that far ahead, it allows them to play the type of game they want to. That's where the most significant damage was done.

"We took a hammering. We tried to play positively throughout.

"We probably ended up playing their game rather than our own. It is a horrible way to finish the season.

"Rugby is a simple enough game really. You can overcomplicate everything else, but if you turnover the ball as easily as we did and lose the collisions it is going to be a long day for you."

It turned into the longest day in 107 years as Ireland slumped to their widest margin of defeat (60-0) in the 26 losses out of 27 internationals between the countries. The 1973 10-10 draw at Lansdowne Road still stands alone.

This Ireland collective have become a little similar to a double-barrel shotgun that comes not quite fully loaded. They have only one good shot in them.

All the excellent work and hard luck stories from last week were put into perspective in Hamilton. It is true.

The All Blacks have to dip well below their best and Ireland be close to theirs for a contest of substance to take place.

The opposite happened here. The Irish physicality, so embedded the week before, simply dissolved. They had nothing left in the tank. New Zealand sensed this immediately and turned a contest into a concussive experience for Ireland. The knockout blows came early and often.

The distress on the face of captain Brian O'Driscoll said it all even before he uttered a word: "They came out firing and before we knew it we were 21 points down."

The air of complacency that sifted through the All Blacks in the second Test was replaced by one of ruthlessness in the third.

"It was just making sure you're on the edge. You only have to be off by a couple of per cent for things to change," said captain Richie McCaw.

"We weren't happy with last week. We realised Ireland turned up and forced us into mistakes.

"But, at the end of the day we still got a Test win. You've got to stay calm under pressure because that's what Test rugby is all about.

"The attitude and how you turn up is usually reflected in your defence. I think that's where we made the biggest shift this week.

"We had guys wanting to get in the line and tackle and that's where you force mistakes and force turnovers.

"To keep that going for 80 minutes and still score those tries, I think that was most pleasing."

The All Blacks stayed calm and cool and collected the scalp of an Irish side completely outmuscled and out of ideas.

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