New Zealand 40
By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Saturday’s second test in Auckland proved a game too far for Ireland at the end of a mammoth season that started at the beginning of August 2001. After pushing New Zealand all the way in the first game the week before, the Irish were outscored by five tries to one as the home team dominated much of the final quarter.
Once again Ronan O’Gara’s failure to convert penalty chances cost Ireland dearly and if least two of his three misses had been successful during the first half, the outcome may have been different. The team as a whole missed eight tries.
With O’Gara badly off form, the tourists needed to score tries, and with Denis Hickie, Rob Henderson, Kevin Maggs and Shane Horgan left at home because of injury, there was a distinct lack of penetration behind the scrum.
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Wing Geordan Murphy was able to create a second-half try for Gary Longwell. However, the Irish were under constant pressure and the defense predictably cracked in the closing minutes.
“I don’t think we were wrong in believing we could come to New Zealand and win a test,” said team captain Keith Wood. “There’s no point in saying we weren’t tired, and we probably slipped off some tackles we shouldn’t have. But I think overall we’re a better side than that performance.”
Coach Eddie O’Sullivan, who was angry at some of the decisions by South African referee, Tappe Henning, was philosophical about the outcome. “I don’t begrudge New Zealand their win,” he said. “At the end of the day, there was a 32-point spread between the teams, and I’m not sure if that’s all that accurate.”