First-half blitz gives All Blacks comfortable 42-19 win in opening Test
Watch: Ardie Savea double against Ireland
Ardie Savea crossed twice in the All Blacks’ 42-19 win in the first match of this three-Test series, the ruthlessness of the hosts most evident in a blitz of three tries in ten minutes at the end of the first half.
It was a hugely physical encounter, with the breakdown particularly ferocious, and while Ireland impressed with their creativity at times, their accuracy let them down at others.
Ireland dominated the opening quarter, Keith Earls scoring the first try after eight minutes.
The well-documented Irish ruck speed came to the fore and hooker Dan Sheehan – arguably the standout performer for the hosts – was involved half-a-dozen times in the build-up. Then when they had penalty advantage, Johnny Sexton, Garry Ringrose and Hugo Keenan linked up, with the latter’s wide pass providing Earls with the opportunity to get over the line.
Yet the tide turned in the second quarter. First Jordie Barrett powered over after a strong run from Leicester Fainga’anuku, then Ireland were punished for their ambition. As the visitors attacked in the New Zealand 22, a loose pass was picked off by Sevu Reece, who sprinted clear.
Two tries in two minutes at the end of the half put the All Blacks firmly in control, with their clever kicking game creating opportunities.
Beauden Barrett’s smart kick behind Ireland’s defence was collected by Quinn Tupaea, who had lots of space to work with. Then Aaron Smith burst through the middle of a ruck, chipped over Keenan and was able to tap the ball back while under pressure from Earls, allowing Savea to score the All Blacks’ fourth try and give them a 28-5 half-time lead.
Ireland reduced the deficit early on when they capitalised on a couple of penalties conceded by New Zealand, working quick phases from a five-metre lineout and spreading the ball wide. James Lowe offloaded to Ringrose, who scored in the corner, and Joey Carbery – a first-half replacement for Sexton – converted from the touchline.
As the game moved into the last half-hour, Savea got his second, showing his power to beat several Irish defenders to run in from outside the 22.
Back came Ireland, but Rieko Ioane saved two tries in two minutes. Carbery looked to have stretched over the line but he lost control of the ball when tackled by Ioane and then the All Blacks centre dislodged the ball from Josh van der Flier’s grasp as he tried to surge under the posts.
Pita Gus Sowakula then marked his All Blacks debut by breaking off the back of a scrum and scoring under the posts before Bundee Aki surged over for Ireland’s third try in the closing minutes.
The visitors pushed for another score once the clock had turned red but were unable to ground the ball, so the All Blacks take a 1-0 lead in this series.
There is likely to be more bad news for Ireland in that captain and fly-half Sexton failed his HIA so is set to miss the second Test under the new 12-day stand-down rules governing brain injuries.
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