Carter pulls strings to end hopes of an Irish rebellion

Ireland, 3 New Zealand, 22
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The Independent Online

New Zealand crushed the dreams of thousands of Irishmen with a ruthless reminder of where the power lies in world rugby. A hard-fought first half which was level at 3-3 moments beforethe break was made to appear an illusion as the All Blacks raced to a 19-point lead within 13 minutes of the start of the second half. They dominated the match thereafter.

An electric atmosphere had the giant Ireland prop John Hayes in tears during the anthems but, as ever, New Zealand immediately set the kind of standards most opponents can but dream of. They needed less than 60 seconds to frighten the life out of the home stand-off, Ronan O'Gara, Jimmy Cowan charging down his clearance from the first ruck. Rob Kearney tidiedup with a relieving kick.

The All Black fly-half, Dan Carter, sent a fourth-minute penalty wide of the right-hand post and another, after 22 minutes, to the left, and New Zealand then wasted another chance to expose Ireland's early nerves, Luke Fitzgerald getting back to cut down Mils Muliaina. The tourists' hooker, Keven Mealamu, then dropped an inside pass from Conrad Smith with the alarm bells ringing again.

Such heavy pressure told of things to come for Declan Kidney's side. The All Blacks' intensity, pace, commitment and concentration were forcing Ireland to play at a speed with which they were not comfortable. Carter kicked a 26th-minute penalty, given when Ireland went off their feet atthe breakdown.

Despite all that, Ireland threatened to get the first try when their captain, Brian O'Driscoll, offloaded to David Wallace. The flanker's pass was intercepted by Muliaina.

The commitment and industry of every player was commendable. Steadily, Ireland intensified their game. O'Gara, who had lacked his usual precision, drilled a long penalty from almost halfway just over the bar to put Ireland level. Then, disaster. Carter offloaded to Ma'a Nonu, the centre put a chip to the line and Tommy Bowe, covering back, flicked the ball away from Richie McCaw and into touch and goal. The referee, Mark Lawrence, checked with the television match official before awarding a penalty try, which Carter converted, and showing Bowe a yellow card for his professionalfoul.

The New Zealand prop Tony Woodcock saw yellow early in the second half after being spotted by a touch judge punching Rory Best, but the All Blacks still threatened. Carter streaked through a gap and the lock Ali Williams battled to the line. Desperate hands under the ball saved a try.

The All Blacks then won quick ruck ball going right and Carter put Nonu into space. The centre's short pass put Joe Rokocoko through a gap. Nonu took the return pass and steamed over from the 22. Then came the killer blow. The All Blacks attacked down the right, Muliaina getting into the 22. When they sent the ball left, Sitiveni Sivivatu floated a long pass to Brad Thorn. He drove straight at Bowe and Jamie Heaslip, smashing them aside to score.

The All Blacks had built a huge lead. Playing catch-up against anyone is tough. Trying to do it against New Zealand is about as easy as ascending Everest in plimsolls.

Ireland: G Dempsey (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), BO'Driscoll (capt), L Fitzgerald, R Kearney (all Leinster); R O'Gara, T O'Leary; M Horan (all Munster), R Best (Ulster), J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell, A Quinlan (all Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster), D Wallace (Munster). Replacements: J Flannery (Munster) for Best, 57; S Ferris (Ulster) forO'Connell, 61; E Reddan (Wasps) for O'Leary, 67; K Earls (Munster) for Dempsey, 70; P Wallace (Ulster) for Fitzgerald, 74; T Buckley (Munster) for Hayes, 76; S Jennings(Leinster) for D Wallace, 76.

New Zealand: M Muliaina (Waikato); J Rokocoko (Auckland), M Nonu, C Smith (both Wellington), S Sivivatu (Waikato); D Carter (Canterbury), J Cowan (Southland); T Woodcock (North Harbour), K Mealamu (Auckland), N Tialata (Wellington), B Thorn (Canterbury), A Williams (Tasman), J Kaino (Auckland), R So'oialo (Wellington), R McCaw (capt, Canterbury). Replacements: J Afoa (Auckland) for Kaino, 44-48; P Weepu (Wellington) for Cowan, 59; I Toeava (Auckland) for Smith, 63; C Flynn (Canterbury) for Mealamu, 65; K Read (Canterbury) for So'oialo, 70; S Donald (Waikato) for Rokocoko, 75.

Referee: M Lawrence (South Africa).