Player ratings: The great escape
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 17:40
They were beaten in a number of areas in their last Test of a taxing year
New Zealand ended the first perfect season in professional rugby with a spectacular finish in Dublin on Sunday.
The world champions were forced to fight their way back after Ireland had taken control of the game with three early tries, and it was the last movement of the match that saw them clinch victory.
Aaron Cruden slotted his second attempt at converting Ryan Crotty's extra-time try, as they snuck past a spirited Irish side at the last possible second.
Although they were beaten in a number of areas in their last Test of a taxing year, Steve Hansen's team showed their champion quality by manufacturing what had seemed like an unlikely victory.
We rate the New Zealand players:
15 Israel Dagg
A mixed outing for the fullback who lost the ball in contact too often and was not able to make much of an impact joining the line, but was solid on defence.
14 Cory Jane
Did not get many chances as he was wrapped up quickly and did not threaten much on attack, but he was safe under the high ball and reliable on defence.
13 Ben Smith
Not given much space and opted to grubber a few times. Stepped well and hit a few gaps, but looked more threatening when he moved to fullback.
12 Ma'a Nonu
A busy outing as he ran hard and straight as usual, threw an intercept pass in the Irish 22, but was quite a creative force and got his team going forward regularly.
11 Julian Savea
showed his pace and finishing ability in scoring a great try, and bumped off a few tackles. Made an impression every time he featured.
10 Aaron Cruden
Attacked the line well and kicked well out of hand. Put in a great grubber to set up Savea's try and was fairly reliable in front of goal.
9 Aaron Smith
His pace tested the Irish around the fringes and his service was good, but he got caught in possession at times.
8 Kieran Read
Did not have his usual impact as he was shut down pretty quickly by the Irish defence, but made some thumping tackles and was solid at the back of the line-out.
7 Richie McCaw
A typically hard-working performance, with some neat passing thrown in on top of his tireless work at the tackle, but he did not win every battle.
6 Steven Luatua
Made some big hits and offloaded in the tackle well as he took the Irish defence on and made some powerful runs.
5 Samuel Whitelock
Got through plenty of work on defence and continues to be a consistent presence in the line-outs.
4 Brodie Retallick
Launched himself at the Irish on attack and defence, but was not able to get his usual momentum and made a few basic errors to hand possession over.
3 Charlie Faumuina
Battled at scrum-time against Healy and his handling let him down at times in a tough match for the inexperienced tighthead.
2 Andrew Hore
Did some good work at the breakdown and tackled ferociously in what might be his final Test match but ran out of puff pretty quickly and was replaced just after half-time.
1 Wyatt Crockett
Struggled to assert himself in the scrums and gave away a few penalties, played a big role in the tight exchanges but also missed a few tackles.
16 Dane Coles (On for Hore, 42 mins)
Injected some pace and urgency on the ball and ran well but his line-out throwing was not good enough.
17 Ben Franks (On for Crockett, 60 mins)
made an impact up front as he got the Irish on the back foot and and showed good instincts to score his try.
18 Owen Franks (On for Faumuina, 56 mins)
Provided some solidity in the scrums and got his team moving forward in the loose.
19 Liam Messam (On for Luatua, 56 mins)
Typically combative, he smashed into defenders and showed some good touches.
20 Sam Cane
21 TJ Perenara
22 Beauden Barrett (On for Jane, 65 mins)
A great little cameo, he was solid in the air and took the ball to the line well spinning out of tackles and providing an attacking spark.
23 Ryan Crotty (On for Dagg, 52 mins)
Scored the winning try and was otherwise solid as he got over the gainline regularly and made his tackles.
By Michael de Vries
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