Highlights on Off The Ball

07:00 AM-01:00 PM

Highlights on Off The Ball


Ireland vs. New Zealand Player Ratings | Young Leinster superstars drive Ireland past the All Blacks

Ireland beat New Zealand 29-20 in Dublin during the November Internationals. It was a day when a group of young Leinster prospects matured into international superstars.

Ireland never took a step backwards against New Zealand. The victory in Chicago will always be remembered as the most notable, but this was the most dominant performance Ireland will ever put on against a New Zealand rugby team.

"If we want to win the World Cup, our standards need to be beating New Zealand today."

Jamie Heaslip understood the importance of this game before it began. Andy Farrell's Ireland understood it too.

The concern for Ireland after last week's victory over Japan was that the intensity change would impact how they played. In the end, it was New Zealand who struggled to match Ireland's intensity. Ireland battered New Zealand physically in the first half, leading to the visitors losing multiple starters to injury while Ireland dominated possession and territory.

But such is the quality of the All Blacks that they took a 10-5 lead into the break.

New Zealand made 160 tackles in the first half. Ireland made 37.

"We've New Zealand scrambling here."

Despite the scoreline, Eddie O'Sullivan joined in a chorus of optimism and compliments for the Ireland side at halftime. It was impossible to disagree because they had dominated the game in every single facet.

Previous Ireland teams might have wilted after playing so well but still losing. Ireland came out firing in the second half. Ronan Kelleher and Caelan Doris scored within the first 10 minutes. From there, Ireland kept driving forward. They conceded a try, but Joey Carbery came off the bench to kick the penalties that secured the result.



15. Hugo Keenan - 9

Within the first two minutes of the game, Hugo Keenan stepped into first receiver and broke the New Zealand line. His first win set up the ensuing play where Andrew Conway ran into the 22. Ireland's opening try came when New Zealand were down to 14 men. Keenan caught the ball in space outside but had to carry it a distance to hold the outside winger so James Lowe could score in the corner.

It was a perfectly executed assist.

Keenan plays the same game no matter the opponent. He's precise with his passes, he presses the defensive line at speed and he's secure under the high ball. There aren't many if any better fullbacks in the world right now.


14. Andrew Conway - 6.5

Andrew Conway found space early to set up Ireland's first platform in the New Zealand 22. No points came from it but it was a threat. Conway almost set up a try for James Lowe when he came around the corner on the opposite side of the field in the first half. He showed great speed and soft hands on that occasion. He didn't see the ball as often this week as last, but he was good with it when he did.

Early in the second half, Conway saw an opportunity to kick the ball from his own half into touch in the New Zealand 22. He very uncharacteristically screwed the ball off the inside of his foot straight to a New Zealand player.

Conway's kick chase was very good throughout, but he gave away two penalties at crucial times. The first was unfortunate as the timing was just off as he arrived, but the second was inexcusably poor when he dived on the ball on the ground in a ruck.


13. Garry Ringrose - 8

Robbie Henshaw's absence meant that Ireland needed Garry Ringrose to play with greater physicality. Nobody questions Ringrose's ability to play in space, but he doesn't dominate at the tackle point the way his teammates do. When he does, you get the best of Ringrose because he can still cut through the defensive line and offload the ball to create for his teammates.

A Ringrose break after 30 minutes almost led to an Andrew Conway try on the far side of the field.

Against Japan, Ringrose had a signature moment when he lined up a Japan back and buried him in a tackle. He did the same to a New Zealand back that stopped an overlap.


12. Bundee Aki - 8 (subbed off 71')

Two weeks ago, Matt Williams suggested Ireland needed to replace Bundee Aki with Ciaran Frawley to play expansive rugby. It was a fair point because Aki hasn't been an expansive passer for Ireland. But he was an expansive passer in this game. He showed subtlety with short passes in midfield link-up play and delivered a beautiful wide pass for Hugo Keenan to set up James Lowe's try.


Ireland Lowe try 13 November 2021; James Lowe of Ireland dives over to score his side's first try despite the tackle of Jordie Barrett of New Zealand during the Autumn Nations Series match between Ireland and New Zealand at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

11. James Lowe - 7

After an all-action display against Japan last week, James Lowe was quiet early on against his native team. Ireland's attack mostly moved to the right away from him before Hugo Keenan found him in the left corner for the opening try of the game. Lowe expertly dived past Jordie Barrett. After that try, Lowe found more opportunities by coming in off his left wing. He had multiple offloads that allowed Ireland to pierce the All Blacks 22.

While Lowe has improved dramatically in defence since his disastrous Six Nations campaign last year, he was exposed by Will Jordan for New Zealand's try on the hour. The Ireland winger came too far infield initially to open the outside channel for Jordan.

Lowe atoned by shutting down a break at midfield when it looked like New Zealand were going to run the full field for a try.


10. Jonathan Sexton - 8 (subbed off 64')

Ireland opened the game at speed and Jonathan Sexton showed off the diversity in his game. He played on the gain line so New Zealand had to respect his threat. That opened up opportunities outside when he shifted the ball accurately. Sexton was outstanding while New Zealand obviously targeted him with late hits. His kicking and passing were on point, but there must be some questions about the captain's decision to repeatedly kick to the corner instead of kicking to goal.

Sexton missed two of three conversions, but his kicking in-game and to touch was outstanding.


9. Jamison Gibson-Park - 7.5 (subbed off 71')

After his all-action display against Japan last week, Gibson-Park had a relatively quiet game against New Zealand. That's not necessarily a bad thing because he kept the Ireland attack ticking forward and made accurate passes. But he missed a golden opportunity in the first half when Jack Conan offloaded to him at the try line. Gibson-Park fumbled the ball away under pressure.

He made amends with a box kick for a 50-22 that eventually led to three points and then showed his speed to prevent Sevu Reece from scoring a try on a kick through when they were one-on-one.


8. Jack Conan - 8

Although Jack Conan was expected to be the focal point of Ireland's carrying, that wasn't how the game played out. Conan's opportunities with the ball were going to his teammates, so he put in the tough work off the ball to create opportunities elsewhere and retain possession. His physicality and athleticism put him right beside his All Black counterparts.

After proving himself against South Africa for the Lions, Conan proved himself as one of the best forwards in the world against the best team in the world once again.


7. Josh van der Flier - 7.5 (subbed off 58')

Josh van der Flier has always been a good player for Ireland but he's also been overpowered often against the best teams in the world. That is no longer the case. Van der Flier is still able to cover as much ground as he ever did, but his added power now lets him win the point of contact, carry the ball effectively and hit rucks with impact against any opponent.


6. Caelan Doris - 8.5

It was notable how many of Ireland's forwards appeared to be physically overshadowing their opponents. Caelan Doris stood out with carries through tacklers but also hit hard at rucks and made important tackles. He had a signature moment during the first half when he stopped winger Will Jordan in his tracks before holding him up to create a maul turnover, but it won't be the moment that lasts.

Doris has been an outstanding ball carrier at every level for Ireland. Codie Taylor found that out when Doris stepped him in midfield, shrugged off the tackle attempt and sprinted to touch down next to the posts. A world-class try from a world-class player against world-class opposition.


5. James Ryan - 7.5

Supposedly undersized James Ryan showed his physicality in tight and in space in this game. Ryan hit rucks with ferocity and tackled New Zealand forwards all over. He had an important kick block with his feet in the first half that stopped a New Zealand attack and sent Ireland into the opposite half of the field.

Any suggestion that Ryan can't play against the biggest and best sides in the world doesn't hold up against this evidence.


4. Iain Henderson - 7 (subbed off 47')

Although Tadhg Beirne can rightfully feel aggrieved at being dropped for this game, Iain Henderson rewarded Andy Farrell with the performance he needed. Henderson's physicality in tight showed up more than once at rucks and in tackles. He was integral in Ireland's defence at midfield. But he had a couple of unfortunate penalties that should have been easily avoided.

Henderson's power showed up for Ronan Kelleher's try when he helped to drive the hooker over the line. There were many occasions throughout the game where Henderson latched onto a teammate to help create forward momentum.


3. Tadhg Furlong - 9 (subbed on 64')

Tadhg Furlong and Caelan Doris met Ardie Savea on the wing at the start of the game. Savea knocked the ball on with both Ireland defenders in his face. Doris being there wasn't a major surprise, but Furlong as a tighthead prop exploded from a cannon and covered 10 metres like a winger to get there. That was the intensity Furlong brought to the game.

Against most teams, a relaxed Furlong can be the best player on the pitch. On the big occasions, Furlong's intensity ratchets up and he puts in displays such as this one.

He was unfortunate not to be one of Ireland's try scorers as his score was ruled out in the first half. It was a good finish regardless.


2. Ronan Kelleher - 9.5 (subbed off 58')

Ireland's front row was extremely physical from the start. Ronan Kelleher led them with his first carry, bouncing off two New Zealand defenders from a standing start to generate front-foot ball. The young hooker made a vital interception on his own goal line soon after when he was on the back foot. New Zealand were about to score the opening try of the game so it was a monumental play after just 10 minutes.

Kelleher was everywhere. This was a breakout game for a player with endless potential.

But it was also a game where his youth showed on occasion. New Zealand's first try appeared to come from him misreading a set-piece move off a lineout. Kelleher separated from Tadhg Furlong at the back of the ruck to go inside, failing to stop the first ball carrier. Codie Taylor scored seconds later.

Kelleher scored a try and hit his lineouts. An accomplished display in every aspect.


1. Andrew Porter - 9 (subbed off 75')

The surfer hairstyle makes him stand out, but Andrew Porter was glad to be seen in this one. The loosehead prop constantly drove forward through contact by getting beneath his tackler before pumping his feet into the ground. Porter and his fellow front-row forwards repeatedly won the point of contact against the New Zealand defensive line.

New Zealand stopped Porter within inches of scoring a try at least five times.

Porter played an incredible 75 minutes in this game. His intensity maintained throughout. He was a pillar of the team's success upfront.


13 November 2021; Joey Carbery of Ireland kicks a penalty during the Autumn Nations Series match between Ireland and New Zealand at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile


16. Rob Herring (subbed on 58') - 5.5

The Ireland lineout was mostly effective. Rob Herring's biggest contribution was on one of the failures when he never threw the ball for some reason. It handed a free kick to New Zealand and put Ireland on the back foot.


17. Cian Healy (subbed on 75')

18. Finlay Bealham (subbed on 64') - 5.5

Within seconds of coming on, Finlay Bealham's mane was seen flowing in rucks. His eagerness to make an impact worked against him though as he was almost immediately called out for offside and then didn't roll away. So Bealham gave away two penalties in one phase.


19. Tadhg Beirne (subbed on 47') - 7

Ireland's physicality didn't drop off when Tadhg Beirne replaced Henderson. The Munster second row held up two a couple of New Zealand ball carriers to slow the attack while going in search of maul turnovers. Beirne was his typical self disrupting rucks.


20. Peter O'Mahony (subbed on 58') - 7

Peter O'Mahony almost pulled off a try-saving jackal under his own posts soon after coming off the bench. He successfully executed it but a penalty against a teammate in the same ruck forced him to release possession. The Munster star got to make a critical turnover at midfield soon after. This time it counted.


21. Conor Murray (subbed on 71')

22. Joey Carbery (subbed on 64') - 7.5

Ireland withdrew Sexton for a HIA on the hour mark. Joey Carbery replaced him and immediately kicked three points. It was a big moment but not one that bothered the Munster man. Carbery followed up his first kick by pumping a ball over the bar from the halfway line.

Besides kicking from the tee, Carbery was also outstanding in defence.


23. Keith Earls (subbed on 71')

Ireland women power past USA 20-10


Team of Us. Everyone In.

Vodafone. The main sponsor of the Irish Rugby Team

Download the brand new OffTheBall App in the Play Store & App Store right now! We've got you covered!

Subscribe to OffTheBall's YouTube channel for more videos, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest sporting news and content.

Read more about

Hugo Keenan Ireland New Zealand Ireland Rugby Jonathan Sexton Player Ratings Ronan Kelleher