Fekitoa double gets ABs home against Ireland

by AFP

Two tries from Malakai Fekitoa dashed Irish hopes of successive wins over world champions New Zealand as the All Blacks prevailed 21-9 in an engrossing hugely physical encounter at Lansdowne Road in Dublin on Saturday. 

Fekitoa's second try killed off the contest making up for his being sin-binned early in the second-half - man of the match Beauden Barrett scoring the other 11 including a try.  

The All Blacks, intent on avenging the 40-29 defeat in Chicago a fortnight ago, came sprinting out of the blocks from the kick-off immediately pressurising the Irish and scored a try within three minutes.

Newly-crowned world player of the year Barrett saw space on the left and produced a trademark cross kick pass to Fekitoa and he opted to go on his own to touch down for his seventh Test try. Barrett converted for 7-0

Ireland weren't rattled one bit and stormed back, Jamie Heaslip feeding Sean O'Brien who charged for the line but was just held up by Barrett -- the Irish eventually won a penalty and Sexton slotted it over for 7-3.

However, they were to lose star young centre Robbie Henshaw - one of the standout players from the Chicago victory - seconds later as he took a high hit from Sam Cane which flattened him.

The contact gained the Irish a penalty inside their own half but coach Joe Schmidt looked less than happy that Cane wasn't sin-binned for the challenge.

Henshaw to the relief of all raised his arm as he was stretchered off.

His replacement Garry Ringrose had barely settled before a moment of individual brilliance and vision by Barrett saw him cut inside Conor Murray and sprint clear only for Sexton to catch him and claim he had prevented him from touching down cleanly.

One camera angle said he was correct and another that Barrett had indeed touched down -- the television match official controversially ruled it a try and Barrett converted for 14-3.

Sexton, so influential in Chicago with Murray, was the next Irishman to depart this war of attrition shaking his head having lasted just 17 minutes as he walked down the tunnel and was replaced by Paddy Jackson.

The momentum shifted back to the hosts when Aaron Smith was sin-binned in the 17th minute for two infractions and a superb passage of play with Jackson and Heaslip involved had the All Blacks on the back foot - again they came away with just the penalty as Jackson slotted it over for 14-6.

It came at a cost in personnel to the Irish as a third player CJ Stander had to go off.

Somehow the hosts held back the waves of New Zealand attacks with superb and courageous defence led by captain Rory Best and it was having an effect as the All Blacks discipline deteriorated with referee Jaco Peyper punishing them regularly.

This ill-discipline - similar to Chicago - cost them early in the second-half as Fekitoa's wild high tackle on Simon Zebo saw him sin-binned but the world champions line held repelling the Irish time after time.

Jackson reduced the deficit to just five points as they approached the hour mark.

However, the killer blow for all their efforts came with 15 minutes remaining as a brilliant move involving Barrett and TJ Perenara saw Fekitoa go in - Barrett converting for 21-9.

Again it was not without controversy as Best demanded Pyper look at a replay for a forward pass but he was turned down and shot a killer look at the South African referee.


Ireland 9

Pens: Jonny Sexton 1, Paddy Jackson 2

New Zealand 21

Tries: Malakai Fekitoa 2, Beauden Barrett 1

Cons: Beauden Barrett 3