New era of All Blacks start strongly

Getty Images     10 Jun 2012     Getty Images

They were helped by three tries on debut to wing Julian Savea, the first hat-trick by a New Zealander against Ireland, and a powerful display from their forwards spearheaded by the superb No.8 Kieran Read.

For a first Test of the year, in front of 43,300 fans, it was an impressive display, and as good as anything the All Blacks have unleashed when opening recent seasons and it was delivered at an up tempo pitch. Ireland tried to play at speed, but they were a gear below the All Blacks and too often appeared trapped in the headlights. Their preponderance for jersey pulling was also cynical.

Too often they lacked the intensity of their outstanding flanker Sean O'Brien who ran himself into the ground for the side's cause.

The home pack were united, not only in the basic demands of their craft pushing and shoving, managing to pick up a tighthead in the process, but in getting to breakdowns quickly. Read almost scored the individual try of the modern era after the re-start from Ireland wing Fergus McFadden's 50th minute try.

Soaring high to take first five-eighths Dan Carter's kick, Read gathered the ball and took off for the goal-line and was only just pulled down short of the corner.

McFadden's try came from Carter's only mistake of the night, an attempted grubber kick which was blocked by hooker Rory Best's legs. The ball was kicked downfield and with only captain Richie McCaw giving chase, McFadden was untested.

In all other respects Carter was sublime, back to the master craftsman who has been such an instrumental force in All Blacks rugby while adding 17 points with his boot, including reassuring penalty goals from 50 and 55 metres.

A more seamless transition to Test rugby than that made by Savea, halfback Aaron Smith and lock Brodie Retallick is hard to imagine.

While Savea's hat-trick caught the eye an even more positive statement was his outstanding head on tackle which stopped dangerous Ireland fullback Rob Kearney in his tracks midway through the first half.

From the moment Smith started yapping at the heels of his park, and then darting around giving a level of speed at the base of rucks and scrums unparalleled in recent All Blacks history it was clear he belonged.

Retallick lent authority to the lineout and speed in supporting play and driving impetus at rucks and mauls.

A clever scrum move found space on the blindside where he worked a move with fullback Israel Dagg and wing Zac Guildford which took play to the Ireland line. However, they demonstrated their defensive worth and kept their line intact.

It was in the 25th minute that Ireland kicked to Guildford and while he couldn't hold the ball it fell sideways and he cleared it and the outside backs worked the ball quickly downfield with Williams gaining ground and Carter popping up to feed the ball back outside to Savea and he ran in for the easiest of debut tries.

Ireland got back into the All Blacks 22m and moved the ball left and right with quick transfers and speedy clearances from rucks. But again the defence held albeit needing to be urgent at times as Ireland worked different players into the firing line.

And the slightest mistake was quickly punished as the ball was transferred back to the Irish goal-line when Carter found more than half the field open with speedsters Guildford and Dagg on hand. Dagg was forced to kick to the corner and as play moved across the field, another speedy break by Aaron Smith created another chance. The forwards rumbled on and it was moved back to the left where Dagg threw a long pass for Savea to crash over for his second.

Three minutes into the second half Savea was in the action again after a set piece move which saw Read involved again in linking with halfback Smith and Carter with a perfect pass to Dagg allowing him to put Savea over again.

Read was involved again in the 55th minute at a five-metre scrum. He took the ball forward and passed to supporting flanker Adam Thomson to score.

Three minutes from the end, a sizzling Dagg break opened up the defence and in the resulting play it was centre Conrad Smith who scored.


New Zealand 42 (Julian Savea 3, Adam Thomson, Conrad Smith tries; Dan Carter 4 con, 3 pen ) Ireland 10 (Fergus McFadden try; Jonathan Sexton con, pen ). HT: 23-3