Ireland 3-22 New Zealand
Williams cops an ear bashing
November 16, 2008
Ali Williams of the All Blacks performs the Haka (Kapo O Pango) during the Guinness Series match between Ireland and New Zealand at Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland on November 15, 2008.
Williams leads the haka before the clash at Croke Park on Saturday night © Getty Images

Ali Williams might have earned the man-of-the-match award for the first time in his 59-Test career last night, but he was annoyed not to get a try to go with it.

Williams insisted he scored what would have been the All Blacks second try four minutes into the second half of their 22-3 victory over Ireland at Croke Park.

The lock dragged three defenders over the line to apparently finish off a trademark break by Daniel Carter but South African referee Mark Lawrence was unsighted and television match official Johan Meuwesen could not confirm the grounding among a pile of bodies.

"Obviously the ref was a bit late to get there and see me ground it," said Williams, whose mood was not enhanced when locking partner Brad Thorn scored the match-clincher nine minutes later. "I'm going to hear about it all week, it's going to be painful, him sitting next to me ... it's going to hurt," he smiled.

Should Thorn bring up their contrasting fortunes, it will not be the first time Williams has copped an ear bashing in Ireland. A partisan crowd of 81,214 also got on his back from the outset, creating such a din it made communication between the All Blacks lineout caller and hooker Keven Mealamu impossible.

The All Blacks frequently had to delay their throws to make sure the call had been understood, a time lapse that consistently incensed Irish supporters. They were demanding free kicks but Lawrence gave the All Blacks leeway as they had to revert to getting in a huddle for Williams to identify the target.

"It's rarely been that loud," Williams said of one of the most boisterous crowds he had played before. There weren't any free kicks because I said to him (Lawrence) `mate I can't communicate with someone who can't hear me. I said give me time'.

The crowd added significantly to the atmosphere of the All Blacks' first test at Croke Park, Ireland rugby's temporary home while Lansdowne Road is being rebuilt. A combined Garda (police) and army band played the respective anthems before a minute's silence was observed to mark the death of Shane Geoghegan, a Limerick rugby player who was gunned down in a botched gang hit last weekend.

The All Blacks added to the sense of occasion by performing Kapa O Pango instead of the traditional haka Ka Mate. Once the game started, popular Irish folk ballad The Fields of Athenry reverberated around the ground before the decibel level spiked when Ireland ventured deep into All Blacks territory for the first time in the 14th minute.

"It was very passionate, very noisy, we couldn't hear ourselves think sometimes," Williams said. "It was pretty special, you can see what this ground means to the Irish people."

Periods of almost total silence when Carter or Ronan O'Gara were lining up penalties added an element of surrealism to the 22nd test between the nations. The goalkickers set themselves while members of the crowd shushed for others to be quiet.

The respectful silence was broken only once, when Carter converted a penalty try in first-half injury time.


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