All Blacks on course after turgid victory
November 15, 2008
Ma'a Nonu breaks clear to score the killer try for New Zealand
© Getty Images
Ireland were swatted aside with ease as New Zealand completed the second leg of their Grand Slam tour with a comfortable debut victory at Croke Park.
Second-half tries from Ma'a Nonu and Brad Thorn ensured Brian O'Driscoll's 50th Test as captain ended in crushing disappointment. A penalty try awarded when Tommy Bowe cynically palmed the ball out of bounds with Richie McCaw waiting to score set the All Blacks on their way.
Ireland were holding their own but Bowe's error in first-half injury-time - which also earnt him a yellow card - gave the All Blacks a 10-3 interval lead.
A high-tempo spell shortly after the break yielded tries for Nonu and Thorn, sealing the outcome and allowing New Zealand to maintain their mastery of the Irish.
Declan Kidney's side were their own worst enemies for much of the new coach's second match in charge, crippled by a huge error count which ensured the Tri-Nations champions were never under sustained pressure.
An unmistakable air of confidence emanated from the Irish camp all week but it failed to translate onto the pitch, ensuring the nation's 100-year wait for a first All Blacks scalp continues. Graham Henry paid Ireland the compliment of naming his strongest possible side, including Dan Carter and McCaw, but they hardly extended themselves in dispatching the hosts.
Ronan O'Gara, who accounted for Ireland's only points, endured a disappointing evening, with his kicking out of hand often putting his side on the back foot. It was his error of judgment after just 20 seconds that almost cost a try as Jimmy Cowan charged down his attempted clearance 10 metres out.
But the ball bounced away from the All Blacks scrum-half and into the path of covering winger Rob Kearney. Only a crucial intervention from centre Luke Fitzgerald prevented Mils Muliaina from scoring in the 10th minute.
The New Zealand full-back had an unmarked Joe Rokocoko outside him but paid the price for going it alone. Tomas O'Leary, making his full debut, calmed his nerves with a brilliantly-judged box kick and then David Wallace brought Croke Park to its feet by romping through a posse of black shirts.
Ireland appeared to have weathered the storm in the opening quarter yet mistakes by Donncha O'Callaghan and O'Gara put them back under pressure. Their blunders were overshadowed by Carter's missed penalty from in front of the posts moments later, his second of the match.
But Ireland seemed intent on helping their opponents as much as possible and soon conceded another penalty which Carter was able to land.
Quick ball from an attacking line-out allowed the Irish to respond with a beautiful offload from O'Driscoll to the rampaging Wallace, but Muliaina intercepted his pass.
Quinlan was lucky not to get punished for a blatant stamp on Rodney So'oialo and Ireland were awarded a penalty in the same passage of play which O'Gara converted.
But disaster struck on the stroke of half time when Bowe illegally attempted to save a certain score that beckoned for McCaw, with a penalty try awarded. Bowe was yellow carded but the numbers were evened two minutes into the second half when Tony Woodcock was sin-binned for a punch on Rory Best, who had been tugging the All Blacks' jersey.
O'Gara missed the long-range penalty and Ireland were back under pressure when a jet-heeled break from Carter was continued by lock Ali Williams, who was just held up over the line. Ireland's defence was buckling and it finally cracked in the 48th minute, the All Blacks running rings around an opposition backline composed of forwards with Nonu strolling over.
Carter converted and Brad Thorn then collected a long pass from the increasingly influential Rokocoko and bulldozed through Bowe. With the outcome assured amid a mass of substitutions, the atmosphere at Croke Park died and New Zealand closed out their 21st victory over Ireland.
Ireland (3) 3 New Zealand (10) 22
Ireland: Pens: O'Gara.
Ireland: Dempsey, Bowe, O'Driscoll, Fitzgerald, Kearney, O'Gara, O'Leary, Horan, Best, Hayes, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, Quinlan, D. Wallace, Heaslip.
Replacements: Earls for Dempsey (71), P. Wallace for Fitzgerald (74), Reddan for O'Leary (67), Flannery for Best (57), Buckley for Hayes (76), Ferris for O'Connell (61), Jennings for D. Wallace (77).
Sin Bin: Bowe (40).
New Zealand: Tries: Penalty, Nonu, Thorn. Cons: Carter 2. Pens: Carter.
New Zealand: Muliaina, Rokocoko, Smith, Nonu, Sivivatu, Carter, Cowan, Woodcock, Mealamu, Tialata, Thorn, Williams, Kaino, McCaw, So'oialo.
Replacements: Donald for Rokocoko (75), Toeava for Smith (64), Weepu for Cowan (59), Flynn for Mealamu (65), Afoa for Kaino (45), Reid for So'oialo (71).
Not Used: Boric.
Sin Bin: Woodcock (43).
Ref: Mark Lawrence (South Africa).
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa) Television Match Official: Johan Meuwesen (South Africa) Citing Commissioner: Peter Larter (England)
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