“The luck of the Irish” in a 2-1 loss
The ground for this game posed a similar challenge to the Scotland one in relation to the size of the pitch; we had a lot of ground to cover. The open surroundings of the field also gave a distinct wind advantage for one half.
The match started with a New Zealand side riddled with national debutantes, all looking to secure a place in future starting sides. As the match began the inexperience and possible nerves of the side became apparent, poor decisions and lack of physicality saw our boys regularly under pressure in our own defensive third. The Irish seemed to physically dominate the midfield and successfully convert that dominance into attacking moves, something our boys could only achieve on a few occasions in the first half, and when we did, a number of questionable refereeing decisions prevented us from capitalising on our attacking moves. Late in the first half an Irish free kick was cleared to what seemed a safe area, however the resulting delivery into the box caught the strong wind and floated in over the goalkeeper Damian Hirst, the ball lost in the sun in the process. Only two minutes later our left back, Hamish Cadigain, was penalised in the box resulting in an Irish penalty. The responsibility fell to the goalkeeper Damian Hirst. The spot kick was struck low to the left, however the keeper became the hero, saving the penalty and regaining the loose ball. The boys were able to hold on and go into the changing rooms at half time only 1-0 down.
The second half saw a new side with six substitutions being made, Danny Hay bringing on his more experienced players in an effort to regain this game after a questionable performance in the first half from the New Zealand side. An encouraging start to the half resulted in an early equaliser by striker Judd Baker : a result of a scramble in the box of the Irish, 1-1. The substitutions brought a new found physicality to the kiwi side which greatly improved the standard of the match. Disappointingly the officials prevented the New Zealand side from benefiting on their new found physical dominance, turning down a dead-set penalty when one of their defenders fell on the ball in their area and clearly handled.
As the game progressed both sides seemed to cancel out each other’s efforts, resulting in both sides becoming frustrated and resorting to the long ball. As the game carried on it seemed more and more likely to end in a draw, but late in the game Cameron Sinclair brought down the Irish striker in the box resulting in a penalty kick being awarded. The kick was struck hard, low and left. The keeper Cameron Hogg picked the right way but the pace of the ball resulted in a goal, 2-1. Following the goal the NZ side seemed more desperate and yet again resorted to the long ball, forcing the two centre forwards Judd Baker and Ben Thomas to work extremely hard. Thankfully the NZ side came to their senses and began to get the ball down and try to play structured soccer, unfortunately it was too late and the damage had been done, the game was lost.
However the resilience of the boys will become apparent in their second half performance, and will serve them well in the upcoming matches against England and Wales. Hopefully the boys can use this loss to fuel their efforts when squaring off against the English and the Welsh.