… as the errors crept in and the All Blacks upped their physicality, increasingly bossing the collisions; pretty much every Ireland mistake was ruthlessly punished. –Gerry Thornley, Irish Times

A comprehensive home victory

By Roger Childs

Back in November the All Blacks were beaten 29-20 at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. In pre –match comments last week there was a clear determination to avenge that defeat at Eden Park where the New Zealanders haven’t been beaten for over 27 years. Based around forward dominance, fierce defence and fewer mistakes, the home team duly won the game by 42-19. Having the advice of former Irish coach Kiwi Joe Schmidt would have been a big help as the locals outplayed the visitors in every aspect of the game.

Coming back from a slow start

The Irish scored the first try with a well worked move using the extra man to run right winger Keith Earls in for the score. Shortly afterwards Jordie Barrett hit the line at pace from a perfect pass by veteran half back Aaron Smith to score close to the posts. He converted his try and the five subsequent scores to net 17 points for the match. Hot on attack the Irish suffered as a result of a poor pass which allowed Sevu Reece, possibly the fastest man on the field, to gather the ball and sprint 80m for the All Blacks second try.

Number eight Ardie Savea scored the first of his two tries when Aaron Smith made a superb break from the base of the scrum and kicked ahead. The cruel bounce of the rugby ball eluded three Irish defenders but not Savea, who pounced on it to score. The Wellington man’s second try came from a brilliant individual effort in the second half when he broke from tackle about 35m out on the right flank and evaded three tackles to score handy to the posts.

The home side’s final try came from Pita Gus Sowakula on debut. The Big Fijian earned his place in the team with a great season in the back of the Chiefs scrum. From an All Black scrum close to the line Sowakula took off and barrelled over under the posts. 

The Irish scored early and late in the second spell and twice went over the line only to lose control of the ball as a result of strong tackles. They were in fact lucky to been given their third try as the player clearly grounded the ball short of the line.

Forward dominance

Led by hard working Sam Cane the home team forwards took a while to assert their dominance, however the first scrum showed the Irish were going to be in trouble as their pack was unable to cope with the power of the All Black front row. Playing Scott Barrett on the side of the scrum gave the team that extra bit of shove. The home team forwards were reliable in the lineouts and were generally quicker to the loose ball. Sam Whitelock was back to his best form and Ardie Savea was everywhere. His tackling was particularly fierce.

In the backs Beauden Barrett was his usual reliable self and kicked well; Quinn Tupaea was strong on attack and defence, and Rieko Ioane made at least two try saving tackles. When Aaron Smith was replaced by Findlay Christie in the second half the All Blacks lost some their zip as the Aucklander was sometimes too slow in clearing the ball.

The Irish contributed to a very good game but they couldn’t get dominance in the forwards. They also made too many mistakes which the All Blacks were quick to punish. They also  kicked away far too much ball which they should have run with on the counter-attack.

Under the roof in Dunedin

Despite the decisive win in the Eden Park test there will no room for complacency. There will probably be few changes in the All Black line-up, however, the Forsyth Barr Stadium could be a good place to blood Highlanders and Hawke’s Bay half back Folau Fokatava. Having him on the bench to come on in the second half for Aaron Smith would be very appropriate.