The All Blacks put in an almighty defensive stand at the end of the game
With just four points in it, the clock creeping towards red, and Ireland throwing body after body in the pursuit of a winner in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final, New Zealand had to stand firm. In the end, they put together 37 phases of defensive before Sam Whitelock came up with the winning steal at the breakdown.
Reflecting on the 28-24 victory, All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said: “Sometimes the sweetest victories are when your opponents play really well and test you to the limit. We didn’t want to play Ireland with two yellow cards. We played a lot of that game with 14 men but I couldn’t be more proud of the players. I thought we looked in control of it.”
But how impressive was New Zealand’s 37 phases of defence to shut out Ireland? Well captain Sam Cane and Foster spoke specifically about that.
New Zealand’s 37 phases of defence under the spotlight
On what he felt in the coaching box while the tackles were flying in, Foster said: “I felt quite calm, to be honest, because I felt like they were really patient in their defence. It is hard to try to win the ball so we kept hunting for that and the pleasing part is that we remained patient. We have been building our system for today and how we wanted to defend.
“I was delighted. We know that one mistake can be crucial but we held tough. That’s what World Cups are about. You have got to roll your sleeves up and trust what you do.”
On this, Cane said: “I am super proud of the effort that went into the week’s preparation. Our ability to defend our line for 30-plus phases at the end, that’s huge. What an atmosphere, what a game, what a tournament to be part of. I’m just really happy to have another week.”
He also said: “The defence was outstanding tonight. We were able to hold them out for long periods and I think ultimately that’s what won it for us. I’m super-stoked. I want to thank all our supporters. There are plenty here and all the ones who are back home, it means a lot. I can’t wait to get stuck in to another week.”
On that last defensive stand, Ireland captain Johnny Sexton also had his say. He added: “I thought we had them a couple of times. To concede the turnover when we were so close to the line was gutting. They scramble so hard for each other.
“To go through that many phases shows what this group is made of, but it’s gutting we couldn’t finish it off. We left it all out there.”
Another big moment was when Jordie Barrett held up Ronan Kelleher, with the score at 24-28. Had the hooker been patient, would they have scored?
Either way, the Kiwi centre got under him and the ball to prevent the try. another brilliant defensive intervention.