Jamie Heaslip's five-week ban capped off a sorry weekend in New Plymouth for Ireland. While his red card and subsequent suspension have left coach Declan Kidney without one of his star players, it will have no long-term effect on Heaslip's international career.
The Irish No 8 will miss the rest of his side's Australasian tour following a moment of madness which saw him sent off by referee Wayne Barnes for striking New Zealand captain Richie McCaw twice with his knee in the one-off Test at Yarrow Stadium.
Heaslip's premature departure left Ireland facing a mammoth battle to contain a fired-up All Blacks side and, with Ronan O'Gara also sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes for cynical play, the Irish found themselves 38-7 down at half-time and on the wrong side of a 66-28 final scoreline.
Heaslip admitted his guilt at a hearing in New Plymouth yesterday, but denied connecting with McCaw's head in the 15th-minute incident. IRB judicial officer Michael Cashman determined that his first strike was to the head and ruled his actions were in the mid-range of striking offences. After the hearing team manager, Paul McNaughton said the Leinster man had received a fair hearing and the matter had now been laid to rest. "It's not going to affect his international future. He was sent off and he's very upset about it. But he's accepted the consequences and he needs to move on and we need to move on, too."
Ireland departed for Rotorua yesterday minus another loose forward after John Muldoon was ruled out of the remaining matches against New Zealand Maori and Australia after breaking his arm on Saturday.
Replacement lock Dan Tuohy, who came on for Mick O'Driscoll when he suffered back spasms, sparked the fightback of sorts when he pounced at a ruck to snatch the ball and race away for Ireland's opening score. In the second half, Ireland were more potent and started to find gaps in the New Zealand defence as Graham Henry rang the changes. Brian O'Driscoll, Tommy Bowe and Gordon D'Arcy showed their class to make the most of their opportunities but it was still a nine-tries-to-four hammering.
New Zealand: Tries Smith 2, Read, Franks, Cowan 2, Whitelock 2, Tialata; Cons Carter 7; Weepu 2; Pens Carter. Ireland: Tries Tuohy, B O'Driscoll, Bowe, D'Arcy; Cons O'Gara 3, Sexton.
New Zealand: Dagg; Jane, Smith, Stanley, Rokocoko; Carter, Cowan; B Franks, Mealamu, O Franks, Thorn, Boric, Kaino, McCaw (capt), Read. Replacements: Guildford, Cruden, Weepu, Tialata, De Malmanche, Whitelock, Vito.
Ireland: Kearney; Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), D'Arcy, Trimble; O'Gara, O'Leary; Healy, Cronin, Buckley, O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll, Muldoon, Wallace, Heaslip. Replacements: G Murphy for Kearney (70), Sexton for O'Gara (70), Reddan for O'Leary (70), Court for Healy (77), Fogarty for Cronin (77), Tuohy for M O'Driscoll (35), Jennings for Muldoon (32).
Referee: W Barnes (England).