Summer Tests Report – Ireland

Johnny Sexton celebrates at the end of the game 16/7/2022
Ireland broke new ground in New Zealand with a first-ever series victory over the All Blacks in their own backyard this summer.

Ireland broke new ground in New Zealand with a first-ever series victory over the All Blacks in their own backyard this summer.

Andy Farrell’s men did it the hard way too, losing the first Test before beating Ian Foster’s side for the first time ever in New Zealand and repeating the trick in Dunedin to claim a famous series triumph.

To put into context how significant this achievement is, only three sides (South Africa in 1937, the British & Irish Lions in 1971 and Australia in 1986) had previously won a three-Test series in New Zealand.

Farrell’s class of 2022 have certainly put the cat among the pigeons in New Zealand rugby and will come flying into the Autumn Nations Series full of confidence.

How did they come in?

Ireland had a strong 2022 Guinness Six Nations, finishing runners-up to Grand Slam champions France.

Four wins from five marked a good return with a 32-15 win at Twickenham – their biggest winning margin away against England – a particular highlight on their way to the Triple Crown.

The series was New Zealand’s first action since the Autumn Nations Series, where they also lost to Ireland 29-20 in Dublin.

The All Blacks did beat Wales and Italy after putting over 100 points on the USA, but a defeat to France showed that not everything was rosy with New Zealand rugby at the back end of last year.

First Test

Ireland’s fast starts would soon become a pattern of this series, and it was veteran back Keith Earls who crossed early to give the tourists the lead at Eden Park.

Jordie Barrett’s reply got the All Blacks going, and the game changed with Sevu Reece’s interception as Ireland were threatening.

The Men in Green then lost captain and fly-half Johnny Sexton after an HIA half-an-hour in.

New Zealand hammered home their advantage with two tries in two minutes from Quinn Tupaea and Ardie Savea before Garry Ringrose pulled one back.

The TMO denied Ireland two scores as Rieko Ioane’s last-gasp defence came to the fore before Savea crossed for a second while substitute Pita Gus Sowakula marked his debut with a try.

Bundee Aki’s late consolation saw the score finish 42-19, leaving plenty of work for the visitors to do.

Second Test

A try in each half for prop Andrew Porter gave Ireland the perfect riposte to level the series and tick a win in New Zealand off their bucket list, 46 years after their first trip.

Ill-discipline shaped the game, with Angus Ta’avao sent off in the 31st minute after a head-on-head collision with Ringrose.

Beauden Barrett’s late first-half try ensured the All Blacks only went in 10-7 down at the break, and with James Ryan in the bin, it was 14 men apiece at the start of the second period.

Porter’s second score made it 17-7 before two Sexton penalties were enough for a 23-12 win despite Will Jordan’s late score in Dunedin.

Third Test

Farrell could barely have scripted his side’s start to the decisive third Test better as they raced into a 22-3 lead thanks to tries from Josh van der Flier, Hugo Keenan and Robbie Henshaw.

But being the champion team they are, New Zealand were never going to lie down, and sure enough, Ardie Savea touched down for the hosts.

Porter escaped with just a yellow card after a collision with Brodie Retallick, and flanker Akira Ioane crossed before a Sexton penalty.

Jordan’s score brought the game back to 25-22 and left the All Blacks on the verge of completing a phenomenal comeback to break Irish hearts.

However, the trusty maul took replacement Rob Herring over and with Sexton’s conversion, Ireland deservedly closed out the game and series after outplaying New Zealand in Wellington.

Best Moment – Keenan score catches the eye

Hugo Keenan’s terrific score in the third Test was arguably the most pivotal moment of the series, approaching the 30-minute mark with just two points in it at 5-3.

Mack Hansen’s gorgeous cut-out ball found fellow wing James Lowe whose no-look tip inside found Keenan running on at pace, and he darted into the corner to get Ireland motoring in the series decider.

Six Nations power rankings after the summer Test series

The free-flowing slick move symbolised everything that was so good about Farrell’s well-drilled and brave outfit.

Who put their hand up – Beirne baby Beirne

Tadgh Beirne’s player of the match display in the third Test put Ireland into glorious unchartered waters and befitted a phenomenal series.

The Munster lock was a rampaging force throughout with ball in hand and at the breakdown with several priceless turnovers.

Verdict – Ireland must sustain momentum

Quite simply, both sides got what they deserved.

Ireland were worthy series winners, and although it is a triumph for the record books, you fear it may mean little if they can’t carry the momentum into the Autumn Nations Series and 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

That is, of course, without even mentioning the Rugby World Cup next year, which could pit these two sides against each other again after the All Blacks dumped Ireland out in the 2019 quarter-finals.

Farrell’s main long-term aim will be France, but here the world learnt his side must be considered serious contenders for, at the very least, a first semi-final appearance.