New Zealand began the three match test series with Ireland in dominant fashion with a 42 – 10 victory at Eden Park.
Ireland made their intentions clear from the start, and as many predicted they came to have a go at the world champions. But it was the All Blacks who opened the scoring with fly half Dan Carter announcing his returning to the international stage with an early penalty.
It didn’t take long for Ireland to respond and Jonny Sexton settled his nerves with a good strike leveling the scores at 3 – 3. Ireland briefly controlled the game and talisman Brian O’Driscoll produced a trademark offload to send Keith Earles into the NZ 22, but the Irish were bundled into touch.
Carter slotted another 2 long-range penalties in metronomic fashion and Ireland then yielded some committed defence as NZ bombarded their line with waves of attack.
Ireland eventually cracked and it was a familiar counter attack from NZ that provided the games opening try. The counter attack eventually led to Sonny Bill Williams sending Carter through with a sumptuous offload, the fly half couldn’t squander the 2 on 1 to put debutant Julian Savea over for the first try of his international career.
Ireland managed to work themselves an attacking lineout from 5 metres out. However the ball was turned over and the All Blacks flooded up field looking ominous, which led to newcomer Simon Zebo carrying the ball into touch 5 metres from his own line. This eventually led to Dagg putting Savea over for his second try with a sublime miss pass and a good finish in the corner from Savea just before half time. The teams went in with NZ looking menacing leading 23 – 3.
The second half picked up where the first half finished when just 3 minutes in Savea crossed the whitewash to complete his hat trick in an unforgettable debut for the hurricane winger.
The Irish grabbed a try 10 minutes into the second half. Hooker Rory best managed to charge down a grubber kick from Dan Carter, the ball fell to Jonny Sexton who kicked the ball downfield, and there was only one winner in the footrace between Fergus McFadden and Richie McCaw.
The AB’s responded virtually straight away with a move straight from the training ground. Number 8 Keiran Read picked up from a 5-metre scrum and offloaded to replacement Adam Thompson who only had to fall over the line. If there was any sign of an Irish revival it was killed off with this try.
Then came all the substitutions and both teams lost their rhythm slightly and the game was in danger of going flat. Until McFadden was denied his second try when he intercepted a pass and ran the length only for referee Nigel Owens to call him back for offside.
Conrad Smith went over in the dying moments to rub salt in the wounds and finish off a move that included a sublime offload from Carter.
New Zealand fans will be pleased to see fly half Dan Carter back to his best, he got the backline firing well and had a hand in most of the tries with a near perfect kicking record to boot.
Ireland adopted a brave approach to this game and lost heavily without really doing much wrong, but this is often the case against the world champions. Unfortunately Ireland I think the tone has been set for the rest of the series.