Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Steve Hansen praises All Blacks' escape act MARC HINTON 16/06/2012

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen admitted it was a test match his team should probably have lost, a fabulous Irish transformation at AMI Stadium forcing the world champions to dig deep into their reserves of character.
And it was that very "character" and "composure" that Hansen highlighted after a dramatic and draining 22-19 second test victory, sealed in the 80th minute by Dan Carter's third dropped goal attempt of the match - and second in a tense finale that everyone, including the All Blacks coaches, on the edge of their seats.
"There were a lot of feelings whipping round the box," said Hansen of a finish that had the windows steamed up and assistant coach Aussie McLean wiping furiously with a towel. "We were trying to keep our composure. There was a lot of apprehension."
The new All Blacks coach was not pleased by a succession of "stupid" penalties that allowed a gallant Irish team to get within a minute of snatching just the second draw in 107 years of test encounters between the two sides.
And he admitted his men had been a little "naïve" with some of their tactics on a chilly night where handling was tested. After running in five tries in a runaway 42-10 victory just a week ago, the All Blacks' tactics and skills were exposed by a transformed Irish side.
 "We saw a lot of character, and I think we'll learn a heck lot out of this test match as a team, particularly in how we prepare." said Hansen after a game that was played in a rollicking atmosphere at this boutique stadium. "We may have thought we'd prepared well but I don't think we have in reflection because you just don't give away stupid penalties like we did tonight if you're in the right zone.
"Under the conditions we may have been a bit naïve at times and tried to play too much rugby in our own half. The All Blacks are often guilty of that because we play rugby and our great strength is the 15 people on the park.
"It's just a little bit of tuning and understanding how to use the conditions to support the team you've got.
"But the really pleasing thing for me tonight is we beat an Irish side who probably played as good as it could have. We haven't played great but we showed a tremendous amount of character and played smart rugby to drop-kick a goal in the last 30 seconds of the game to win.
"I can't remember the last time the All Blacks won a test match with a dropped goal. I can remember one where we didn't get one," he said referring to the 2007 World Cup quarterfinal defeat to the French in Cardiff.
Hansen repeatedly lauded his side's character to scrape out a victory in a match he admitted "we probably shouldn't have won". They may have been a shade fortunate to pick up a key penalty late in the game at scrum time - a decision that clearly irked the travelling Irish media troupe - but from there they were good enough to establish the field position to allow Carter to decide the game with his boot.
"They played with a lot of conviction, energy and urgency," said Hansen of a special Irish performance and a remarkable turnaround after their Eden Park hiding. "What a difference a week makes, eh?
"But in saying that I'd also like to give my own team a pat on the back for the character they showed. We certainly didn't play as well as we'd like, but we showed some really special character to hang in and win the game."
Hansen felt his two inspirational leaders, skipper Richie McCaw and five-eighth Dan Carter, had stepped up when their team needed them most at the end.
"Richie didn't have the greatest night with his hands but when they kicked off to him he took the one that mattered.
"And DC stepped up and showed he could win matches with a dropped goal. We didn't get there just because Dan Carter kicked it, we got there because we had a plan and everyone did their job under pressure.
"Clearly we made too many errors, and the ones that frustrated us most were the silly penalties. That's something we're going to have to tidy up."
McCaw said his message to the team heading into the final five minutes had been to "stay calm".
"There was time left on the clock and you've got to keep believing," said McCaw. "The message was to keep believing in the plan. We got down the right end of the field, got the scrum five [metres] out and went to what we needed to do to get the win.
"Staying calm under that sort of pressure is the key to winning test matches. Composure is a big thing and you've got to remember the other team is under pressure too."
Hansen was hopeful a head injury suffered by No 8 Kieran Read would not keep him out of next week's third test in Hamilton, while Adam Thomson had taken a smack on his broken "snozza".
Hansen also had no issues with Israel Dagg's late yellow card for an ill-time challenge on Rob Kearney and said he hoped he'd learn from what was a "poor decision".

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