The All Blacks showcased their grit as well as their guile in a convincing 21-9 win against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI.
Two weeks ago, Ireland stunned the rugby world when they beat the All Blacks 40-29 in Chicago. So much was made of that monumental result – Ireland's first-ever win against New Zealand – as well as the quality of Ireland's performance.
Some felt that Joe Schmidt's side had proved that it had the power and precision to score another big win against the world champions in Dublin on 19 November. Others, including Schmidt himself, warned that Ireland had merely 'poked the bear'. They feared that the All Blacks would throw everything into the contest at the Aviva Stadium in an attempt to set the record straight.
Neither group would have been disappointed after both teams served up gladitorial performances at the Dublin coliseum. Ireland kept the ball for lengthy spells of play, using their abrasive loose forwards to hammer into the New Zealand defence.
The All Blacks were equal to that physical challenge, and ultimately their defence made a whopping 166 tackles. The precision of their defensive effort is put into perspective when one considers that they were forced to play 20 of the 80 minutes with 14 men.
The visitors threw themselves into the collisions in the first quarter. When they had the opportunity to strike, they made it count.
Malakai Fekitoa finished well to claim the All Blacks' first try, although most of the credit should go to the forwards for taking the ball through the phases and wearing down the Ireland defence. Beauden Barrett ran through a gap in the 14th minute, and kicked his second conversion to steer his side into a commanding 14-3 lead.
There seemed to be some doubt about whether Barrett had grounded the ball. Johnny Sexton got back to make the tackle and held up Barrett, and television replays showed no clear grounding of the ball. Yet, the officials were happy to award the try.
Ireland had a chance to hit back when Aaron Smith was yellow-carded for a cynical infringement in the 18th minute. However, the hosts were only able to add three points in Smith's absence.
Smith left the field at the same time as Sexton. The Ireland flyhalf's injury followed that of centre Robbie Henshaw.
Neither man returned to the pitch, and Ireland's attack suffered as a result. While the hosts never wanted for physicality, they did lack the means to penetrate the All Blacks defence.
Shortly after half-time, Fekitoa was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Simon Zebo. Ireland continued to throw themselves into the New Zealand defence, and continued to receive no reward.
Ireland eventually decided to shoot for goal in the 58th minute, with Paddy Jackson adding three points and reducing the deficit to five.
But it was the All Blacks who had the final say. TJ Perenara and Barrett produced inspired passes in the buildup to Fekitoa's second try. Barrett's conversion steered New Zealand into a 12-point lead, which they never relinquished.
Ireland – Penalties: Johnny Sexton, Paddy Jackson (2).
All Blacks – Tries: Malakai Fekitoa (2), Beauden Barrett. Conversions: Barrett (3).
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Garry Ringrose.
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Waisake Naholo.
Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images