Tony Ward: Joe Schmidt has been great for Irish rugby but now we need some of New Zealand's attacking magic
This had the potential to be the greatest day in our rugby playing history bar none.
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It took a massive Irish performance, our best at this World Cup and our most substantial since 2018, to be a given.
I still thought we would lose but nothing and I mean nothing (not even Twickenham six weeks ago) prepared the nation for what we witnessed in the Tokyo Stadium on Saturday.
The magnitude, or perhaps even more relevantly the manner of this emphatic New Zealand drubbing took us back to the darkest days of amateurism when we toured the Land of the Long White Cloud knowing that a spirited performance in the opening test, which by and large was delivered, would be followed by the almost inevitable trouncing in the second that followed seven days on.
All Black pride when wounded is lethal, and can we desist from this nonsense emanating from some who should know better suggesting the name New Zealand be applied given the so-called aura apparently surrounding the term 'All Black'. Give us a break.
We'll not yet call them Invincible All Blacks given the mighty test facing them next up in the first semi-final in seven days' time. England were impressive when beating the Wallabies, sorry I mean Australia, but the AB's were much more impressive again when demolishing us. Let's be honest with ourselves, we were beaten up and eaten alive. As the game went on, despite our late 'respectability rally' of sorts it was akin to men against boys with the metaphorical youngsters all clad in green.
It made for the type of ending Rory Best, but more particularly Joe Schmidt, did not deserve. Irish rugby has been good for him but he has been great and I mean truly great for Irish rugby given what he has achieved and where he has taken us in terms of status. Steve Hansen had the good grace (as he so often does) when acknowledging the Kiwi's input, sorry make that New Zealander's, since first landing on these shores.
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I must confess to feeling more nervous before Saturday's kick off than any Irish game ever. I can't even begin to imagine how the players must have felt. All week they talked themselves up as so they should but so too did the opposition lavish praise on the team that had taken two of the last three meetings - the reigning World Champions unbeaten in this competition since 2007.
Just as they had done against the Springboks, sorry South Africa, in the opening Pool match they delivered a first half one-two courtesy of Aaron Smith that took the air out of the opposition. But whereas the 'Boks recovered to some degree we were struggling to stay on our feet and very much up against the ropes.
It would be wrong to say they dominated every facet because we held our own in line out and scrum but in every other area it was a non-contest as they mixed up the game beautifully when combining wave upon wave of physicality with extraordinary timing in support and most every incision whether close in or wide out loaded with clever and varied angles in attack.
We by contrast, and due in no small measure to All Black blitz defence, were limited to one out runners going nowhere.
Whether with or without the ball New Zealand dictated the tempo.
With a 62% to 38% first half advantage in the possession stakes Richie Mo'unga was majestic.
In terms of maximising vast resources the All Blacks leave the rest trailing. What we witnessed was precision, accuracy, pressure, belief, trust but more than anything ruthless efficiency. They suggested in the build-up that they were going to take away Johnny Sexton's space. Well they did and how. Our most influential player wasn't mapped. And he most certainly wasn't alone. If we're brutally honest only Jordan Larmour, CJ Stander and to a much lesser extent on this occasion James Ryan can look back with any sort of satisfaction in their individual contribution while Peter O'Mahony and to a lesser extent Keith Earls did have their defensive moments. We were blown to smithereens.
As I have alluded to so many times just witness the Mitre 10 Cup competition (which is a level below Super Rugby) and it's plain to see why the they are consistently the best at what they do. We play almost secure in fear whereas New Zealanders play consistently invigorated by adventure. And I don't accept that we must cut our cloth. We have the talent, nowhere near as much as the Kiwis, but where there's a will to change the point of attack and yes play higher risk rugby the resources are there.
What I would dearly like to see the IRFU and its new head coach Andy Farrell invest in is a top-class specialist attacking coach, preferably with a Kiwi background.
The most depressing moment of so many on Saturday came in the 52nd minute when Sexton just short of the New Zealand 22 resorted to a meaningless bomb.
It was to all intents and purposes the collective white flag on this miserable day. Our tactical kicking chiefly from Sexton, Conor Murray and yes even Joey Carbery in his limited time on was simply sub standard and effectively turning over possession when we needed to register scores of any description.
It took us 70 minutes to break the duck. It made for a monstrous and emphatic mauling.