All Blacks blow Ireland away at Eden Park
MATCH REPORT: The All Blacks got their three-Test series against Ireland off to the perfect start with an emphatic 42-19 win at Eden Park on Saturday.
The home side outscored the visitors by six tries to three in the first Test. Ardie Savea got a brace, while Jordie Barrett contributed 17 points with a try and six conversions.
Ireland were 5-0 in front after five minutes. However, NZ found an extra gear after 20 minutes and four converted tries saw them go into the break leading 28-5.
Ireland was the first to score in the first half via a Garry Ringrose try, but the All Blacks never seemed to be in trouble and another two tries took the game away from the Irish.
The result maintains Ireland’s record of having never beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand, a run they were hoping to overturn after winning three of the previous five Tests between the nations.
It also extends New Zealand’s remarkable unbeaten streak at Eden Park, where they have won 45 of 47 Tests since 1994 with two draws.
Ireland’s hopes nosedived when they lost captain Johnny Sexton to concussion in the first half.
The veteran flyhalf failed a head injury assessment and is likely to miss the second Test in Dunedin next Saturday under World Rugby protocols, adding to a mounting injury list.
New Zealand also had to overcome disruption in the build-up, losing the services of seven members of the coaching and playing staff to Covid-19.
But it did not show in a strong response to heavy defeats to Ireland and France on their northern hemisphere tour at the end of 2021.
Ireland applied enormous pressure in the opening exchanges, completing 18 phases of play before seasoned wing Keith Earls darted across for his 35th Test try.
New Zealand were scoreless through the first 20 minutes but the floodgates opened soon afterwards, firstly when Jordie Barrett barrelled across, set up by a charge from debut wing Leicester Fainga’anuku.
Momentum swung on the half-hour mark when All Blacks wing Sevu Reece pounced on a loose Ringrose pass and raced 80 metres to score.
In the same passage of play Ireland captain and playmaker Sexton was struck by an accidental forearm from New Zealand counterpart Sam Cane and was unable to return to the field.
New Zealand created two tries in two minutes before the break-through short kicks.
Quinn Tupaea capitalised on a slick Beauden Barrett grubber before a chip and chase from Aaron Smith resulted in Savea’s first try.
Ireland began the second half like the first, creating a try for Ringrose through multi-phase pressure but Savea stormed over for his second soon afterwards, making an outside break and leaving three defenders in his wake.
Ireland came close to scoring through Sexton’s replacement Joey Carbery and Josh van der Flier but both spilled the ball over the tryline, on each occasion after a tackle from Reiko Ioane.
Replacement All Blacks loose forward Pita Gus Sowakula crossed from the base of the scrum on debut before Ireland had the final say through their Auckland-born replacement back Bundee Aki.
Man of the match: Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton was outstanding on attack in the first half before he left the field due to a head knock. Peter O’Mahony, who took over the captaincy, was a handful at the breakdowns. However, two NZ players stood out above the rest. Flank Ardie Savea was a monster with ball in hand and he scored two tries. Meanwhile, scrumhalf Aaron Smith had one of his best games in a black jersey in a long time. He was influential on attack and he had a hand in a couple of tries. The award must go to Aaron Smith for sparking that comeback in the first half.
For New Zealand:
Tries: J Barrett, Reece, Tupaea, Savea 2, Sowakula
Cons: J Barrett 6
Tries: Earls, Ringrose, Aki
Cons: Carbery 2
Yellow card: Karl Tu’inukuafe (New Zealand, 79′ – cynical play, not rolling away)
New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Scott Barrett, 5 Samual Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Pita Gus Sowakula, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson Park, 8 Caelan Dorris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Bundee Aki.
Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes (RFU) & Jordan Way (RA)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (SARU)
Additional source: AFP