By Sarah Mockford, Rugby World Features Editor
In a nutshell
ANOTHER NEW Zealand-Ireland game, another All Blacks win. It’s a stuck record for Ireland and while they showed glimmers of a decent running game at Eden Park, this match was over by half-time. Hurricanes wing Julian Savea scored a hat-trick on his New Zealand debut and the All Blacks probably would have won by more had they been more accurate with their passing.
Savea’s second try just before the break. He’d already finished off a slick passing move involving Sonny Bill Williams and Dan Carter, then in the 38th minute he sprinted clear to the corner and, despite the tackles of Rob Kearney and Conor Murray, was able to ground the ball.
The headlines will be dominated by Savea’s hat-trick, but credit should go to Dan Carter for pulling the All Blacks’ strings so masterfully. Missing the latter stages of the World Cup with a groin injury will have been painful for the fly-half, but he proved in this opening match of the Test season that he’s still got plenty to give to the All Blacks. His kicking from the tee and out of hand was superb, while he guided his team-mates effortlessly around the park with pinpoint passes.
Room for improvement
The All Blacks are looking as classy as ever – to score 40-odd points after one week’s training is impressive and their new caps looked at home on the Test stage – but they could add some more finesse to their passing. Too many chances when begging with risky or misguided offloads.
Ireland started sprightly, spreading the ball and surprising the All Blacks with their running game. They defended with ferocity early on too and their scrum held up well – but they seemed to lose intensity as the match went away from them.
They need to keep their aggressiveness and physicality at a high level from the first minute to the last if they’re to contain this New Zealand team. And they need to improve the way the look after the ball in contact – the All Blacks can crucify sides when they get quick turnover ball and the defensive alignment is out of sync.
In quotes – winners
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen: “All three debutants played particularly well – Brodie (Retallick) did a lot of hard work, Azza (Aaron Smith) was simply outstanding and the young man on the wing wasn’t too bad either, scoring three tries.”
In quotes – losers
Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll: “They played well, especially for a team that hasn’t played since winning the World Cup final. We probably helped them a little bit with the amount of turnovers we conceded. They’re one of the best teams in the world at turnover football and they made us pay a couple of times.”
New Zealand made 16 line breaks to just one from Ireland and made three times as many metres – 633 to Ireland’s 179.
Sean O’Brien was the top tackler with 18 while Sonny Bill Williams made the most ball carries with 14.
NEW ZEALAND: Israel Dagg; Zac Guildford (Ben Smith 53), Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea (Aaron Cruden 65); Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith (Piri Weepu 58); Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore (Hikawera Elliot 62), Owen Franks (Ben Franks 62), Brodie Retallick (Ali Williams 53), Sam Whitelock, Victor Vito (Adam Thomson 47), Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read.
Tries: Savea 3, Thomson, C Smith. Cons: Carter 4. Pens: Carter 3.
IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll (captain), Keith Earls (Darren Cave 73), Simon Zebo; Jonathan Sexton (Ronan O’Gara 58), Conor Murray (Eoin Reddan 62); Cian Healy (Sean Cronin 71), Rory Best, Declan Fitzpatrick (Ronan Loughney 62), Dan Tuohy (Donncha O’Callaghan 62), Donnacha Ryan, Peter O’Mahony (Kevin McLaughlin 62), Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Try: McFadden. Con: Sexton. Pen: Sexton.