New Zealand have sent out a sharp reminder that they are world champions with a 42-10 demolition of Ireland in Auckland on Saturday.
Before this match, in 24 times of trying, Ireland had not beaten the All Blacks. They still haven't - not for want of trying but in the end they were probably flattered by the big score against them - flattered or rewarded for fighting spirit. The All Blacks would have deserved a bigger score but the Irish did not roll over. In fact in the last 35 minutes of the match, when one could well have expected the floodgates to open, they kept the All Blacks to just two tries.
It was not that Ireland did not have chances but there is a difference between having chances and taking them. It is not that the Irish were negative - not at all - but they were really no match for the speed, skill and strength of the All Blacks. Speed, skill, strength and vision turned chances into points.
After the haka and a tiara of fireworks, Dan Carter kicked off into the wind before 43 300 spectators and immediately Ireland started running. But they were free-kicked for reluctance to feed the first scrum, the All Blacks tapped and Sean O'Brien, who otherwise had a great game, was penalised at the tackle. Carter goaled. 3-0 after 4 minutes.
The Ireland scrum did have problems - two free kicks and a lost head in seven scrums. The line-outs on the other hand worked well for both sides though Ireland lost one to a skew throw.
In the first half the penalty count was 4-4, all eight for tackle/ruck infringements. The first against the All Blacks was against Aaron Smith, and Jonny Sexton goaled. 3-3 after 7 minutes.
Both sides were running and both sides were tackling neatly.
O'Brien was again penalised. 6-3 after 15 minutes and then Rob Kearney, Ireland's best runner got the ball and new wing Julian Savea dumped him with a thump, Jamie Heaslip was penalised and from a good way out and at a sharp angle on his left, Carter goaled. 9-3 after 18 minutes and now the All Blacks were building waves of attack, bashing at the Irish line.
They were on the attack when Ireland won the ball and scrumhalf Conor Murray kicked the ball downfield, out of chasing range. Guildford managed eventually to get the ball on the New Zealand right and gave it out to its left where Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams and Carter wove some magic till Carter sent big, fast Julian Savea and his golden boots racing over for the first try of the match. 16-3 after 26 minutes.
Soon afterwards Savea had a burst through would-be tacklers and raced down the middle of the field.
Ireland had a five-metre line-out from a penalty but a wild pass by Brian O'Driscoll killed the hope of a score and the All Blacks broke out. From a five-metre line-out of their own Sam Whitelock was tackled out at the corner.
From a line-out on their left, the All Blacks strode over the advantage line and played back to the left where Israel Dagg ran cleverly to give Savea an bit of an overlap, enough for the big wing to charge to the line and over for a try as Kearney and Murray fought to stop him. 23-3 after 38 minutes, which was the half-time score after the All Blacks had nearly scored again when Dagg broke but passed to early and the defence was able to cope.
From a line-out on the right then All Blacks went wide left. Kieran Read gave to Carter who gave to Dagg who sent Savea bursting over for his hat-trick of tries, the first All Black to score a hat-trick of tries against Ireland. After the match McCaw referred to him as the 'big fellah out on the wing'. He said it with great affection as well he might. When he was asked bout his debut the 'big fellah' said: 'The boys inside me set me up.'
Carter's conversion made the score 30-3 after 48 minutes.
The All Blacks were attacking, Dagg, significantly, a part of the attack. Going left Carter grubbered but into Rory Best who dived on the ball, creating a turnover for Ireland. Close to the right touchline Sexton hoofed the ball into unprotected acres and Fergus McFadden raced after the ball, unsurprisingly beating McCaw to grab the ball near the line and score Ireland's try. 30-10.
After the try, New Zealand kicked off. Read plucked the ball out of the air and galloped down the right touchline but Keith Earls backtackled him and O'Driscoll's prevented Read from stretching to ground the ball for a try. No try, but Simon Zebo had grabbed Conrad Smith when he was in support and the All Blacks had a penalty which they turned into a five-metre scrum, one of four such scrums. From the initial one Ben Smith was close and then Ali Williams was held up over the line. Sonny Bill was close and then he grubbered. Ireland carried over. Yet another five-metre scrum. Read picked up at the back barged forward and falling slammed the ball into Adam Thomson's grasp, and the flank, a blood replacement for Victor Vito, scored. 35-10 after 55 minutes.
It was 22 minutes to the next score, during which Ireland bashed from a five-metre line-out, , Ireland ran from their own line, Aaron Cruden had a sharp break, Dagg had a promising run and the rain came down. Going right Cruden held the ball back and then gave a short pass to Conrad Smith who swooped smoothly over for the try, 42-10 with three minutes to play, during which time the All Blacks had loads of fun. It ended with Carter hurtling for the corner but caught by Kearney.
Man of the Match: The man who did most in the big All Black victory was clever, skilful Dan Carter, mercifully restored to international rugby from injury.
For All Blacks:
Tries: Savea 3, Thomson, C.Smith
Cons: Carter 4
Pens: Carter 3
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Victor Vito, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Ben Smith.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12 Keith Earls, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Dan Touhy, 3 Declan Fitzpatrick, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Donncha O’Callaghan, 19 Kevin McLaughlin, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Darren Cave.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)