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All Blacks defend gritty Dublin showing

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 21/11/2016 Angelo Risso

Robbie Henshaw of Ireland is taken from the field injured during the international rugby match between Ireland and the New Zealand All Blacks at Aviva Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. © Phil Walter/Getty Images Robbie Henshaw of Ireland is taken from the field injured during the international rugby match between Ireland and the New Zealand All Blacks at Aviva Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. Howls of outrage were splashed across mastheads up and down the Emerald Isle after the All Blacks' gritty 21-9 Test victory over Ireland.

But in the New Zealand camp everyone was singing from the same song sheet on Sunday, insisting the side had no intent to spoil the Dublin Test or deploy brutal tactics.

The world champions conceded an unusually high 14 penalties at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday as they repeatedly came under the pump at the scrum and breakdown.

Two yellow cards were awarded to halfback Aaron Smith and centre Malakai Fekitoa, the latter for a high tackle, while openside Sam Cane was lucky to escape with just a penalty.

The 24-year-old crunched Irish second-five Robbie Henshaw across the chest and veered upwards, knocking the Leinster gun out cold.

Head coach Steve Hansen has alleged the incident was no more than a head clash and will defend Cane against his disciplinary committee citation on Monday.

But he said the Test was no different to any other physical encounter on the rugby park.

"After 200 Tests you don't get surprised by too many things, and there's a lot of emotion involved in the Henshaw one because the guy got stretched off and it looks bad," Hansen said.

On the field, senior All Blacks maintained there was no bad blood or intent to injure.

Henshaw, flanker CJ Stander and fullback Rob Kearney all suffered head injuries in Saturday's match, while playmaker Johnny Sexton picked up a hamstring niggle.

Kiwi-born Irish boss Joe Schmidt was reportedly livid with referee Jaco Peyper's unwillingness to punish the Kiwis, or to disallow two contentious tries.

First-five Aaron Cruden, a second-half substitute in Dublin, said the match was always going to be a humdinger after Ireland's 40-29 upset in Chicago two weeks ago.

"There's a few sore bodies around and that's just the sign of a good Test," the Chiefs playmaker said.

"Catching up with the Irish team afterwards, they said they knew they'd be pretty sore, so they threw everything into it and so did we."

Hooker Dane Coles, who admitted he was still knackered 24 hours after the match, said his side had made life difficult for themselves by failing to build offensive pressure.

Ireland's frequent penalties gave them an avenue back into the game despite last-ditch All Blacks defending, the Hurricanes skipper said.

"We never go out to be barbarians, those guys that did the high tackles admitted it but they weren't going out on purpose, it's just the heat of the moment," Coles said.

"We go out in the right spirit and the way it should be played, and we play it hard."

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