The Grand Slam is still on for New Zealand after a disappointing match which contained two disallowed tries, a controversial moment and evidence that the All Blacks have plenty of strength in depth.
Amid all the New Zealand domination, the spectre of the spear tackle on the Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll during the Lions tour came back to haunt the All Blacks here when Ma'a Nonu tipped up Gordon D'Arcy.
The referee, Jonathan Kaplan, indicated that the Ireland centre had been a victim of an illegal tactic but, despite an International Board instruction for the perpetrators to be heavily punished, the All Black merely received a verbal warning from the South African match official. Whether there is a citing remains to be seen.
The incident came early in the second half of what had turned into a one-sided match, and those Ireland fans among the 7,500 spectators unable to use their tickets because of the closure of one end following a fire on Friday evening were spared a miserable afternoon.
One of the most striking differences between the two teams was the handling. With the All Blacks it was quick and slick, often just a flick between players. For Ireland it was more fumbling and bumbling.
Early Ireland attempts to burn upfield were extinguished by the New Zealanders' opening score, which was a soft one. Sitiveni Sivivatu sidled up on the blind side of a scrum in the Irish 22 and when Mose Tuiali'i picked up at the back he was able to present the Fijian flyer with a simple run to the line. Ireland were not helped by Kaplan, who allowed the All Blacks to burrow and squirm their way through on the ground at the breakdown and interfere with the Irish ball. In the build-up to the well-worked second try, scored by the scrum-half Piri Weepu, he ignored a perfectly correct call from the Australian touch judge alerting him to a New Zealand forward pass.
But Kaplan's sharp eyes never seemed to miss an illegal Irish hand at a ruck, or a less than subtle attempt to prevent release in the tackle. For all that, when Ireland did get it together, they certainly managed to put the wind up the All Blacks. There was a fabulous passage of play towards the interval when the visitors' fly-half Nick Evans momentarily lost sight of a Ronan O'Gara kick ahead.
The No 8 Denis Leamy made a superb pick-up and broke clear for fully 30 yards. It helped set up position in the pressure zone, but unfortunately even when Ireland won a penalty five metres out, the New Zealand defence was far too dense to allow any green-shirted warrior through.
Eventually, the New Zealanders broke out and streamed upfield.
There was another critical oversight by Kaplan which saw two All Black players effectively screening what the centre Aaron Mauger was going to do with the ball, which actually ended up out on the right wing in the hands of the No 8 Tuiali'i, who stormed up the wing and shipped the ball to Leon McDonald, who found Sivivatu inside him. The winger ran in unopposed for his second try.
Since Evans had already knocked over a couple of penalties, the home side trudged glumly into the dressing room at half-time well adrift and with a huge amount to do. Unsurprisingly, there were further penalties after the interval, and although Ireland counterattacked bravely, they were thwarted time and again by the New Zealand defenders.
The All Blacks did get over the Irish line on two occasions through Doug Howlett and then Nonu, but each time the television referee Roy Maybank, of England, disallowed the try. But persistence paid off and Howlett was soon put over following a scrum.
The Irish did hit back strongly, but Shane Horgan was held up by Nonu over the line, while moments later Geordan Murphy lost the ball as he attempted to dive over.
At the very bitter end came the consolation try by the prop Marcus Horan converted by replacement fly-half David Humphreys, but it is doubtful whether the All Blacks - or anyone else for that matter - cared.
Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester); T Bowe (Ulster), G D'Arcy, S Horgan (both Leinster), A Horgan; R O'Gara, P Stringer; M Horan (all Munster), S Byrne (Saracens), J Hayes, D O'Callaghan (both Munster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), S Easterby (Llanelli, capt), D Leamy (Munster), J O'Connor (Wasps). Replacements: R Best (Ulster) for Byrne, 75; S Best (Ulster) for Hayes, 64; M McCullough (Ulster) for O'Kelly, 64; N Best (Ulster) for Easterby, 75; D Humphreys (Ulster) for O'Gara, 75; G Dempsey (Leinster) for Murphy, 80.
New Zealand: L McDonald (Canterbury); D Howlett (Auckland), M Nonu (Wellington), A Mauger (Canterbury), S Sivivatu (Waikato); N Evans (Otago), P Weepu (Wellington); T Woodcock (North Harbour), K Mealamu, J Afoa (both Auckland), J Eaton (Taranaki), A Williams (Auckland), S Lauaki (Waikato), M Tuiali'i, R McCaw (both Canterbury). Replacements: A Hore (Taranaki) for Mealamu, 64; S Taumoepeau (Auckland) for Woodcock, 64; J Cowan (Southland) for Weepu, 64.
Referee: J Kaplan (South Africa).Reuse content