Men against boys! And to think some pundits in the northern hemisphere reckoned that this All Blacks side wasn’t much good.
They overwhelmed Declan Kidney’s disappointing outfit on a night when dreams died at Croke Park. Ireland had never beaten New Zealand in 21 attempts but hopes were high this might be the occasion.
Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll said “New Zealand won the field battle and dominated. You can only defend for so long and I thought we got out of jail a bit at times in the first half.”
True, Ireland gave it a real go in the first half, although Dan Carter missed two simple penalties for the All Blacks. But once Irish wing Tommy Bowe was forced to concede a penalty try right on half time, it was a different game.
From 3-3 moments before the interval, New Zealand led 10-3 at the interval and really caught fire straight after half time. They snatched a 22-3 lead within 13 minutes of the second half and the rest was a procession.
Ireland learned huge lessons from this encounter. They just couldn’t win any real quality ball for most of the last 45 minutes and without it, they had to live on scraps. That was always going to be a fast route to extinction and a series of hammering attacks by the All Blacks turned it into a victory march.
Declan Kidney’s men, not to mention 82,000 fans at Croke Park, were reminded that New Zealand remain the benchmark for rugby excellence worldwide. Written off by some before this tour, they will now surely march to another Grand Slam in the northern hemisphere, with only Wales and England left to beat.
Ireland seemed their toughest opponents on paper but the greater speed, penetration, commitment and precision of the tourists put them on another level to the home team. They tore into the rucks, won the ball all over the field and moved it cleverly and intelligently. Centre Ma’a Nonu was a constant danger with some powerful surges and he thoroughly deserved his second half try.
The All Blacks were just too fast, in thought and deed, for the Irish. They had them gasping with the intensity and execution of their game in every phase. When massive lock Brad Thorn powered over for his 53rd minute try, he left Jamie Heaslip and Tommy Bowe spread eagled on their own goal line. Nothing could have better illustrated the superiority of the New Zealanders than that single act.
O’Driscoll did his best but even he made mistakes, evidence of the searing pressure he and his men were under when they got the ball. Teams in this part of the world are not used to having to play at such pace and against such frightening intensity and physicality.
An electric atmosphere at Croke Park which had giant prop John Hayes in tears during the anthems, set Croke Park alight. But it was the New Zealanders who looked the most super charged by the intensity of the occasion.
Carter missed two penalty attempts before landing one after 26 minutes to edge New Zealand ahead. Ronan O’Gara, off form and ineffective for much of the game replied from halfway with three minutes of the half remaining.
But then disaster struck Ireland. Carter brilliantly off-loaded to Ma’a Nonu, he put a chip through to the line and Tommy Bowe flicked the ball away from Richie McCaw’s grasp. Referee Mark Lawrence checked it with the TMO before awarding a penalty try (which Carter converted) and yellow carding Bowe.
The numerical disadvantage did not last long – All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock was also yellow carded early in the second half for punching Rory Best. But the All Blacks had by now found another gear and there was nothing Ireland could do about it.
Nonu increased the lead seven minutes after half time, cleverly working a one-two with wing Joe Rokocoko before taking the reverse pass and steaming through to the line. Carter converted and when Thorn added another score six minutes later, it was all over. Playing catch up rugby against anyone is tough but when you have to do it against the All Blacks, it’s like trying to scale Everest in plimsolls.
Ireland: Pen. Gl: O’Gara
New Zealand: Tries:
Penalty try, Nonu, Thorn.
Conversions: Carter (2)
Pen. Gl: Carter
New Zealand: M. Muliaina, J. Rokocoko (sub. S. Donald 75 mins), C. Smith (sub. I. Toeava 63 mins), M. Nonu, S. Sivivatu; D. Carter, J. Cowan (sub. P. Weepu 59 mins); A. Woodcock, K. Mealamu (sub. C. Flynn 65 mins), N. Tialata, B. Thorn, A. Williams, J. Kaino (temp. sub J. Afoa 44-48 mins), R. McCaw (Capt.), R. So’oialo (sub. K. Read 70 mins).
Ireland: G. Dempsey (sub. K. Earls 70 mins); T. Bowe, B. O'Driscoll, L. Fitzgerald (sub. P. Wallace 74 mins), R. Kearney; R. O'Gara, T. O'Leary (sub. E. Reddan 67 mins); M. Horan, R. Best (sub. J Flannery 57 mins), J. Hayes (sub.A. Buckley 76 mins), D. O’Callaghan, P. O’Connell (sub. S. Ferris 61 mins), A. Quinlan, D. Wallace (sub. S. Jennings 76 mins), J. Heaslip.
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)Reuse content