New Zealand ruthlessly expose Ireland's weaknesses as Sexton is injured again

Keith Earls got an early try but it was downhill from there for the visitors at Eden Park
New Zealand ruthlessly expose Ireland's weaknesses as Sexton is injured again

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony with Brodie Retallick of New Zealand in action in the first test at Eden Park. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

New Zealand 42 Ireland 19 

IRELAND were given both a rude awakening and a rugby lesson in the first test of the three-match series, as a clinical All Black side put them firmly to the sword at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.

The All Blacks got an initial shock in the sixth minute when Ireland got the opening try of the game from Keith Earls. It was an excellent Ireland team score, with New Zealand unable to deal with the manner in which Ireland kept moving the ball late from the first receiver, and after multiple carries from the pack got them within yards of the tryline, Garry Ringrose and Hugo Keenan fed Earls out on the right to cross for his 35th try for Ireland.

Andy Farrell would have been delighted with how they had started the game, and they were almost in again when Garry Ringrose’s inside pass to Jamison Gibson-Park was intercepted by Jordie Barrett with the line at the scrum half’s mercy, but in the 20th minute, the All Blacks struck back.

New Zealand finally got on some front foot ball and when they had numbers in hand out on the left they exploited it by putting their left wing Leicester Fainga'anuku in the clear, and although he was hauled down just short of the line Ireland could do nothing to stop Beauden Barrett from crashing over from close range after being fed a bullet of a pass by Aaron Smith.

And while Ireland still looked the dominant side in possession they conceded again in the 29th minute, when Ireland looked the team more likely to score. Ireland were probing along New Zealand’s 22 when Garry Ringrose threw a speculative pass in the direction of James Lowe, and when the Leinster wing lost his footing it left a huge gap for the speed merchant Sevu Reece to pick up and race clear, and no one was going to prevent him from dotting down at the other end of the Eden Park pitch.

With their tails up the All Blacks went for the throat, crossing again in the 35th minute when a wonderful Beauden Barrett dink through was collected by centre Quinn Tupaea to score under the posts.

By this stage, Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton had limped off and what had started so positively was quickly turning into a horror show for Ireland as they conceded again just before half time after the TMO adjudged what looked like a clear Smith knock-on to have gone backwards, with number eight Ardie Savea eventually pouncing on a loose ball in the Ireland in-goal area to score to leave it 28-5 at half time.

Ireland needed a big start in the second half and they got it, with Ringrose crossing in the left corner in the 44th minute after Ireland had patiently probed the entire width of the New Zealand tryline.

Any hopes of a comeback were quickly ended by Ardie Savea who raced around and clear of both of Ireland’s centres to score a brilliant 54th-minute try.

Joey Carbery and Josh van der Flier both thought they had scored within a minute of each other around the hour mark only for centre Rieki Ioane to force two knock-ons with two brilliant last-ditch tackles, with the line at Ireland’s mercy.

The Kiwis crossed again in the 70th minute with debutant Pita Gus Sowakula going over off the back of an attacking scrum from close range.

Ireland got a late consolation try in the 76th minute when Bundee Aki burrowed over from close range after a wonderful offload from Peter O’Mahony to Ringrose had sparked the opportunity, but ultimately it was a tough day at the office for Ireland.

Ireland's Tadhg Beirne, Bundee Aki, Johnny Sexton, James Lowe and Peter O'Mahony look on as New Zealand perform the Haka. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Ireland's Tadhg Beirne, Bundee Aki, Johnny Sexton, James Lowe and Peter O'Mahony look on as New Zealand perform the Haka. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Scorers for New Zealand: J Barrett (6 cons), Savea (2 tries), B Barrett, Reece, Tupaea, Sowakula (1 try each).

Ireland: Carbery (2 cons), Earls, Ringrose, Aki (1 try each).

NEW ZEALAND: J Barrett; Reece, Ioane, Tupaea, Fainga'anuku; B Barrett, Smith; Bower, Taylor, Tu'ungafasi; Retallick, Whitelock; S Barrett, Cane (c), Savea.

Subs: Taukei'aho and Ta'avao for Taylor and Tu'ungafasi (54), Tu'inukuafe, Christie and Mo’unga for Bower, Smith and Tupaea (59), Sowakula for Retallick (62), Papalii and Ennor for Cane and Ioane (67).  

IRELAND: Keenan; Earls, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; Sexton (c), Gibson-Park; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong, Beirne, Ryan; O'Mahony, van der Flier, Doris.

Subs: Carbery for Sexton (30), Conan and Aki for Doris and Earls (56), Heffernan for Sheehan (62), Treadwell for Beirne (64), Sheehan and O’Toole for Heffernan and Furlong (67), Murray for Gibson-Park (73).

Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)

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