British & Irish Lions Test No 8 Jamie Heaslip has been handed a five week ban for striking an opponent with his knee in Ireland’s 66-28 defeat by the All Blacks in New Plymouth.
The Leinster man was sent off by English referee Wayne Barnes after only 15 minutes after twice striking New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw with his knee at a ruck on the home line.
“Jamie had never been cited or red-carded before in his professional or amateur career, so it is completely out of character,” said irish team manager Paul McNaughton.
“The judicial officer, Michael Cashman, came in with a medium-level ruling and they also took into account his being contrite and owning up to it and his attitude at the tribunal itself.”
Ireland were already trailing 10-0 when Heaslip saw red, following a penalty and conversion from Dan carter and the first of Conrad Smith’s two tries, and they slumped to a 38-7 deficit by half-time.
They were reduced to 13 men for 10 minutes of the first-half after Ronan O’Gara was sent to the sin-bin for holding back McCaw. While the Munster outside half was off the field Ireland conceded a further 14 points.
And to make matters worse for Declan Kidney’s squad, Connacht skipper John Muldoon suffered a broken arm and Munster lock Mick O’Driscoll left the field with back spasms. With the All Blacks scoring five tries, it all added up to one of the worst 40 minutes in the history of Irish rugby.
Heaslip’s five week ban means his tour is now over and, with the injuries to Muldoon and O’Driscoll, Kidney will now have to look for three changes to his first-choice pack for the remaining Test against Australia on 26 June. Ireland also face the new Zealand Maori on Friday night.
But the Irish coach, who described the game at the Yarrow Stadium as “a horror show”, won’t be completely suicidal after seeing his side dig deep to score four tries, three of them in a second half that ended 28-21 to the All Blacks.
“It was a bad defeat, but I'm ever positive and you've got to take the good things that you can out of every game. There were certainly some of those in the second half,” said Irish skipper Brian O’Driscoll..
“I'm delighted that we were able to show a bit of bottle in the second half and play some good stuff. Jamie's red card certainly didn't help matters.
“It's difficult playing against the All Blacks with 15 players but, when we lost Jamie and then Ronan O'Gara to the yellow, we were chasing shadows a bit. It was a tough period.”
The All Blacks scored nine tries in all as they notched a record score against Ireland to extend their unbeaten run against the men in green to 24 games over 105 years. Centre Conrad Smith, scrum half Jimmy Cowan and lock Sam Whitlock on his debut each bagged two tries, while another debutant, prop Ben Franks, No 8Kieran Read and replacement prop Neemia Tialata all scored one apiece.
Carter became only the fourth player in history to score 1,000 Test points when he converted his side’s second try. His match haul of 17 points took him up to 1,011 for the All Blacks.
Ulster lock Dan Tuohy grabbed a try within two minutes of coming on to replace O’Driscoll in the first half and O’Gara added the conversion to make it 38-7 at the break. In the second half, Ireland grabbed two tries in the space of five minutes when O’Driscoll and Tommy Bowe crossed.
O’Gara converted both and then his replacement, Jonny Sexton, added the extras to a fourth and final score from Gordon D’Arcy. It was the first time over the 23 games that Ireland had scored four tries against New Zealand.