IN THE END Declan Kidney was sounding like a man asked to find the leak in a sieve.
He sat deep inside Eden Park, the venue where he was the toast of all Ireland just nine short months ago.
What happened since? Wales perhaps.
But when you look back across a 19 game international season, the famous win over Australia looks like a massive blip.
Seven wins and, assuming the next two tests against the All Blacks go to form, 11 defeats. The wicked performance to dismantle England and the shock win over Australia are mere happy memories.
Kidney is now a man under pressure. So, where did it go wrong? What can possibly be improved on next week?
“Everybody remembers the latter half of games, but I’ll be taking a good look at the first half and seeing how we go about that.” Said Kidney.
Indeed there were positives, the former Munster coach shocked us all with his back line selection and Ireland started with some impressive pluck. Yet it was little more than that for the opening quarter. Those in the crowd holding signs depicting us as a land of potatoes and ‘fiddle de dee’ are given no reason to think otherwise.
“We had our share of attacks, New Zealand had theirs.” Kidney said of those opening exchanges.
“We turned the ball over, they picked off an easy nine-pointer and once they got the try it just – once your 13 points ahead you can relax a little bit, try a few things.
“Then we probably came away from our own game a bit. that gave away one or two scores. once they got in the ascendancy then…”
Then? Then the World Champions showed why they are always a cut above, able to find a weakness and hammer at it.
Kidney may be under pressure – it was unusual yesterday to see him stood upright in the coaching box taking notes in a small black pad – but he needn’t be feeling the heat. The unfortunate reality is that Ireland were never going to win this game.
The Heineken Cup and Grand Slam winning coach so rarely allows us to see what is really on his mind. We can’t believe that the mono-tone flat responses he gives the media are the same voice that the players hear. Yet there must be some of them just as disillusioned as those who pay hard-earned money to watch Ireland play.
Respect / ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Despite what Kidney has told us about ‘not experimenting against New Zealand’ this tour is – by accident or design – a development tour of sorts. Not in that it is a squad of Wolfhound standard players, but where we have seen some standards dip they have been culled. To omit Gordon D’arcy and Andrew Trimble from the entire 22 man squad was very unlike the coach, and we must applaud him for trying to change.
There is no sense getting angry because Ireland are not got enough to beat New Zealand on the same ground they lifted the World Cup late last year.
The Kiwis were pushed by a coach looking to make a mark in his first game, a core of experienced players out to show they want to defend the Webb Ellis and a smattering of incredible young talent who would give anything to join them.
This All Black team was better than the one which won the World Cup final, 107 years of defeats were not going to be undone by rejig of the back line, but a year of 11 losses might just find that to be a silver lining.
Over the next two test (defeats) Kidney must be judged on the innovations he comes up with rather than be pulverised for allowing water out of the sieve.