Rampant All Blacks Thump Ireland
The All Blacks, who were seemingly deficient and vulnerable a week ago, put Ireland to the sword at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday.
New Zealand were streets ahead of their visitors in every facet of the game, and their strength and execution set the foundation for a nine-try, 60-0 drubbing.
The Irish started well but even in the open minutes it seemed New Zealand were always going to be the better of the two sides.
The first forty minutes were an arm wrestle but it didn’t take long - only seven minutes - for the All Blacks to set the tone for the game.
Sam Cane opened the scoring, finishing of some robust phase play from the All Blacks. They recycled the ball brilliantly. The play broke down beneath the posts courtesy of a Conrad Smith surge. The ball went right through the hands of Sonny Bill Williams, who found Cane.
The back rower, in only his second Test match, bullied his way over the line to score his maiden Test try. Aaron Cruden added the extras from the right-hand touchline to give New Zealand a 7-0 lead.
Williams scored New Zealand’s second try, when Cruden off-loaded 40 metres from the goal line. The All Blacks inside centre accepted a miracle ball from Cruden, who was able to release the ball as he went to ground, and Williams covered the empty territory to score a sharp solo try. Cruden backed up his line-break assist with a second successful conversion in the 12th minute.
The momentum was still with the All Blacks. They owned the Irish’s defensive territory, and were completely in control.
The 19th minute saw Cruden drift to the right, draw the Irish defenders and throw a cheeky inside ball to Williams, who went straight through the gap in the defensive line to score. Israel Dagg slotted through the conversion, with Cruden seemingly struck with a niggle.
Whatever it was that forced Cruden to relinquish the kicking duties didn’t hamper him when he swooped on an errant Irish pass.
The New Zealand pivot charged down the ground before setting Smith free with a two-handed lob pass as the Irish closed him down.
Smith ran the ball another 10 metres before handing off the ball to winger Ben Smith to score his first try in international rugby in the 26th minute.
Dagg attempted the conversion, but the angle was too wide for the fullback and the score remained at 26-0. Cruden left the ground during the stoppage and was replaced by another Beauden Barrett.
The Irish finally found their way in attacking territory but it took 32 minutes. The tourists had recycled through 14 phases during an advantage ruling.
However, packing a scrum slightly right of the goal posts, the Irish were wheeled and lost the ball out of the side of the scrum and New Zealand cleared.
As the clock ticked over the 40th minute the All Blacks played some beautiful flowing rugby to keep the ball alive. Recycle after recycle, the New Zealanders kept pressing but couldn’t turn possession into points.
Just when it seemed the half was over Rob Kearney, the Irish fullback, was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock down. Barrett stepped up for his first shot on goal and nailed the penalty to give the All Blacks a 29-0 half time lead.
The All Blacks began the second half with the same endeavour as the first. Keven Mealamu ran the ball strongly and unloaded to the flying Liam Messam, who was able to pass the ball to scrumhalf Aaron Smith.
Smith scurried through and threw an inside ball to winger Ben Smith, who gathered and dived over the line for his second try right behind the posts.
The sevens-like action extended the All Blacks’ lead to 34-0 and Barrett added the extra two points with a straight-forward conversion from directly in front.
The All Blacks continued their dominance when Ireland lost a lineout inside their attacking half. New Zealand won the throw that sailed over the tail of the line, and the ball went through hands from right to left.
Hosea Gear accepted a one-handed pass from Conrad Smith and seared down the left touch line. As the Irish cover defence closed on him, he steadied and shoulder-charged straight through Keith Earls and scored a powerful winger’s try in the left corner in the 50th minute. Barrett couldn’t convert the subsequent attempt at goal, but the All Blacks were out to a 41-0 lead.
The evisceration continued when Messam accepted a beautiful outside ball from Cane. The combination of Cane punching up the ball and Messam in motion was too much for the Irish.
Messam drove powerfully through the defensive line and scored under the cross bar in the 57th minute. Despite the short range, straight forward aspect, Barrett hit the upright and could not further the score but New Zealand still led 46-0.
The Irish’s pain only got worse when Dagg swooped on a ball that had been toed ahead down the right touch line by Williams.
Dagg won the 61st minute foot race and evaded the last ditch ankle tap to dot down midway between the uprights and right touch line.
Barrett finally adjusted his radar and netted the conversion, and the hosts extended their already commanding lead to 53-0.
Cane finally got a rest and Adam Thomson came on his place. It took less than five minutes for Thomson to receive a pinpoint outside ball from Barrett that put him into space.
His fresh legs sent him over the line next to the left upright and from directly in front, Barrett got just reward from the try assist with another two points. The 73rd minute try set the All Blacks ahead 60-0 and there was no sign the New Zealand side would let up.
When the final whistle sounded, the All Blacks had completed a remarkable 60-point deconstruction of the Irish. It was the greatest winning margin by New Zealand over an Irish side and a comprehensive victory in every sense of the word.
The tackling, passing, kicking and running of the New Zealanders were executed clinically with a work rate that kept the Irish scoreless for only the second time in 80 years.
SARugby.com Man of the Match: In a side where every player on the pitch contributed, it was difficult to single out one player for the honours but for his two tries and presence in many of the attacking plays, Sonny Bill Williams is our Man of the Match.
New Zealand - Tries: Sam Cane (2), Sonny Bill Williams (2), Ben Smith, Hosea Gear, Liam Messam, Israel Dagg, Adam Thomson. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (2), Israel Dagg (2), Beauden Barrett. Penalties: Barrett.