No excuses for All Blacks in Chicago defeat

by AAP

The All Blacks produced the great escape to break Irish hearts in 2013, but three years on and in a neutral venue, it was a step too far.

The world champions have lost to their Irish foes for the first time in Test history, going down 40-29 in Chicago and ending their record winning streak at 18 games.

A lacklustre opening half set the tone for the All Blacks' display after a Joe Moody yellow card enabled the Irish to lead 25-8 at the break.
The All Blacks raised hopes of another comeback when they closed the scores to 33-29 but they were dashed by a late try from impressive second-five Robbie Henshaw.

"They thoroughly deserved the win and it makes up for the last time when they probably should've won too," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.

"When you win you give yourself a pat on the back, and when you lose you give yourself a wee upper-cut because there's things you've got to get better at."
Ireland, sensing the chance to exploit the absence of Kiwi locks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, put on a clinic at the set-piece from the get-go in Chicago.

New Zealand wasted three lineouts in the first half alone, while veteran Ireland hooker Rory Best produced the goods with 10 successful lineouts from 12.
The All Blacks were also uncharacteristically lax in their defending, missing 11 tackles and struggling to contain the oft-deployed Irish driving maul.

Yet Hansen was pleased to see his side produce its customary late-game surge despite the absence of his towering locking duo and injuries to both starting midfielders.

Second-five Ryan Crotty and centre George Moala are unlikely to play again on the northern tour after hamstring and elbow injuries respectively.

"Losing George at the end made us very vulnerable and Ireland were good and smart enough to attack us where we were vulnerable, that took away the momentum," he said.
"The key thing is now that we learn all the lessons we can out of this game so the loss is not wasted, so it takes us somewhere so we can get better."
The All Blacks scored the first try of the match through Blues gun Moala, but a senseless Moody binning for a spear tackle gave the Irish licence to attack.

A pair of Irish tries to flankers Jordi Murphy and CJ Stander gave the side momentum before halfback Conor Murray strolled over to put daylight between the sides.

Irish winger Simon Zebo took advantage of a driving maul to cross on the left edge soon after the break, before the All Blacks staged a mini-comeback.
Halfback TJ Perenara, Ben Smith and debutant Jordie Barrett all crossed to put their side within four points before Henshaw's effort closed the contest.

"I've been in losses in the All Blacks jersey and it's always tough to take, they're few and far between," skipper Kieran Read said.

The side will now travel to Rome to take on Italy, before seeking vengeance against the Irish in Dublin in a fortnight.

Read, 31, was already looking forward to making amends in the Irish capital.

"It's always nice when you have a loss to get back on the horse against the same opposition," the Crusaders No.8 said.