First Test: Ireland hammered 42-10 by New Zealand in Auckland
NEW ZEALAND 42 IRELAND 10
IRELAND’S hopes of a first victory over the All Blacks were blown asunder by a five-try performance of clinical efficiency from the world champions, getting the Steve Hansen era off to an excellent start.
There was no shortage of effort from the Irish, for whom Sean O’Brien, Rob Kearney, Rory Best and Keith Earls stood out in difficult circumstances, but the visitors were forced to spend the majority of the match frantically plugging holes in defence as New Zealand attacked ceaselessly with pace, intensity and invention.
Winger Julian Savea was the hero, using his speed and power to strike for three tries on his debut, but this was display of all-round excellence by the home team with their experienced players, captain Richie McCaw, out-half Dan Carter and centre Conrad Smith, all producing while the new caps, Savea, scrum-half Aaron Smith and second-row Brodie Retallick thrived alongside them.
The Irish scrum was not as much of an issue as feared with Declan Fitzpatrick and Ronan Loughney battling hard but Declan Kidney’s side were second best in every area against a side who looked every inch the part of world champions and would have overcome any opposition with this display.
Ireland did themselves no favours with a succession of soft breakdown penalties early on as well as a couple of free-kicks at the scrum and half-way through the first period, with New Zealand dominating possession, the home side led 9-3 courtesy of three Dan Carter penalties to Jonathan Sexton’s one.
The Irish had just seen off a sustained bout of New Zealand pressure on their line when an over-cooked kick by Conor Murray gave the All Blacks time and space to run back. A superb incision and off-load by Sonny Bill Williams allowed Carter to send Savea through on a clear run to the line with Carter converting a 16-3 lead.
There was no let-up from the world champions and, after another sustained period of finger-in-the-dyke defending from the Irish, with O’Brien working tirelessly, Savea struck for his second, crashing through the attempted tackles of Murray and Rob Kearney.
Carter made it 23-3 and Ireland were fortunate that it stayed that way until the break thanks to Israel Dagg butchering a straight-forward scoring pass and some brave defending from Murray.
But the All Blacks started the second period with as much determination as they had the first and, with Carter exerting exquisite control from 10, another slick backline move sent Savea over for a simple hat-trick try, with Carter making it 30-3.
The game may have been gone, but the Irish were desperate for some encouragement and it arrived after 50 minutes. Best did superbly to block a through kick and win possession and when Peter O’Mahony fed Sexton, the out-half threaded a perfectly-paced kick down the line for Fergus McFadden to easily out-pace Richie McCaw for the converted try.
It was a temporary respite as New Zealand (after narrowly failing to score when Kieran Read tore onto the kick-off only to be hauled down inches short by Keith Earls) laid siege to the Irish line once again. From solid scrum possession Read broke around the side and fed substitute Adam Thomson with a lovely pop for the try, Carter showing rare signs of fallibility by missing the conversion.
McFadden thought he had a second when he showed excellent anticipation to intercept in his own 22 and had the gas to make the line only to be hauled back by Nigel Owens for offside.
With substitutions flooding the park, both sides struggled for fluidity which suited the Irish better in terms of keeping the score down but the world champions gathered themselves for one final push and Conrad Smith provided it after a scything break from the excellent Israel Dagg.
Another try-saving tackle by Kearney prevented further pain for the Irish with the final score-line of 42-10 a fair reflection of the gulf between these sides.
With two Tests to go and the All Blacks blowing off their cobwebs n fine style, the next two weeks have an ominous look to them for the Irish.
Scoring sequence: pen Carter, 5 mins, 3-0; pen Sexton, 7 mins, 3-3; pen Carter, 15 mins, 6-3; pen Carter, 18 mins, 9-3; try Savea, con Carter, 26 mins, 16-3; try Savea, con Carter, 37 mins, 23-3; try Savea, con Carter, 43 mins, 30-3; try McFadden, con Sexton, 50 mins, 30-10; try Thomson, 57 mins, 35-10; try C Smith, con Carter, 79 mins, 42-10.
NEW ZEALAND – I Dagg; Z Guildford, C Smith, S Williams, J Savea; D Carter, A Smith (P Weepu 56); T Woodcock, A Hore (H Elliot 63), O Franks (B Fanks 63); B Retallick, S Whitelock; V Vito (A Thomson 45), R McCaw (capt), K Read.
IRELAND – R Kearney; F McFadden, B O’Driscoll (capt), K Earls (D Cave 72), S Zebo; J Sexton (R O’Gara 55), C Murray (E Reddan 62); C Healy (S Cronin 72), R Best, D Fitzpatrick (R Loughney 55); D Tuohy (D O’Callaghan 62), D Ryan; P O’Mahony (K McLaughlin 62), S O’Brien, J Heaslip.
REF - N Owens