Wellington. The All Blacks were lucky to defeat Ireland at the death in the second Test, New Zealand pundits and media said Monday, praising the tourists for giving the world champions a reality check.
Ireland were written off after a 42-10 drubbing in the first Test but came back strongly in Christchurch on Saturday, only losing when New Zealand’s star pivot Dan Carter potted a last-gasp drop goal for a 22-19 victory.
The nail-biting finale was a warning to the All Blacks, particularly younger players, not to believe their own hype after last year’s World Cup win, the Dominion Post’s Toby Robson said.
“Most importantly, complacency and false impression [were] knocked on the head, just two Tests into the post-World Cup season,” he wrote. “And for that, Ireland have done the All Blacks a great service.”
The New Zealand Herald’s Chris Rattue said the Irish were robbed by questionable refereeing decisions late in the match.
“The Irish have every right to raise merry hell over the scrum penalty against them when on the attack and pushing for victory,” he said, adding “this didn’t feel like a triumph” for the relieved New Zealanders.
Former All Blacks captain Stu Wilson said the rejuvenated Ireland team had deserved a first-ever win over New Zealand in more than a century of trying.
“We got out of jail, in fact it’s one we really should have lost,” he told Radio New Zealand.
“They [Ireland] were a fairly average side in Auckland and within seven days they came back and showed what Test-match rugby is all about. Our boys were extremely lucky.”
Wilson criticized winger Israel Dagg and veteran lock Ali Williams for disciplinary breaches that almost cost New Zealand.
Dagg was sin-binned in the final stages of the game for a late tackle on Rob Kearney, while Williams committed an infringement shortly after coming off the bench, then incurred a further 10-meter penalty for mouthing off at the referee.
“That was an absolute shocker what he did with the amount of Test caps  he has hanging off his belt,” Wilson said.
While New Zealand now have an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match Test series, ex-All Blacks skipper Justin Marshall said Ireland had showed they were capable of springing an upset in the final encounter, in Hamilton next weekend.
“It all now depends on how they cope with the disappointment, the regret and the frustration of what might have been . . . [but] I’m not prepared, unlike last week, to say it’s beyond this Irish team,” Marshall told Fairfax Media.