Sportal.co.nz - 16/11/2008
New Zealand subdued Ireland's first half fire to extend its run of success to 103 years with a 22-3 win at Croke Park in Dublin on Sunday (NZT).
Tries to second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu and lock Brad Thorn rewarded more enterprising play, especially at pace, from the All Blacks in the second half, although play from both sides tapered off in the last quarter as both sides made extensive substitutions.
Central to the All Blacks effort was a fine performance by first five-eighths Dan Carter who again controlled the assault, making some key line breaks but, most importantly, contributing to the defensive effort with some fine tackling.
A vital decision to award a penalty try right on the halftime break provided the All Blacks with some valuable confidence which it built on during the second half.
The ruling by referee Mark Lawrence, in consultation with his Television Match Official, occurred after Nonu stabbed a kick through to Ireland's line.
As flanker and captain Richie McCaw dived for what would have been a likely try, Ireland wing, Tommy Bowe flicked the ball deliberately into touch in-goal and the penalty try was awarded.It capped a well-contested first half in a stirring contest in front of an appreciative crowd.
New Zealand's early attacks were met by defiant Irish defence, not only in the tackle but in the lineout especially where lock Ali Williams, who had a powerful game, found his opposite Paul O'Connell challenging at every lineout. Early on Williams had to resort to tap backs, only sometimes with effect.
No.8 Rodney So'oialo became a source of variation with some good takes.Flanker David Wallace had the huge Irish crowd roaring when making a break around the 20-minute mark but he lacked support and the move was turned back when So'oialo cleared the ball back downfield.
First five-eighths Dan Carter missed penalty goal attempts in the fourth and 22nd minutes - the second from straight in front. But then after a piece of switch play between wings Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu which saw Sivivatu break the line superbly, Ireland was penalised. Carter from 20m in front made no mistake to open the scoring.
Wallace made another break into the 22m area, after a superb transfer by centre Brian O'Driscoll, but a timely intercept by fullback Mils Muliaina resulted in a penalty to allow the All Blacks to clear.
Ireland's first five-eighths Ronan O'Gara landed a penalty goal after 37 minutes to level the scores.New Zealand also lost prop Tony Woodcock two minutes into the second half when he was reported by a touch judge for punching a player holding him.
With both teams reduced to 14 men it was the All Blacks who made the better adjustment with Williams unable to convince the TMO that he grounded the ball over the line after a fine run by New Zealand from its own territory.
However, moments later, a long pass from Carter to Nonu allowed Rokocoko to run into space at speed. Nonu doubled around perfectly and took a perfect pass to race ahead to score after 46 minutes.
Ireland was restored to 15 men, but it didn't stop New Zealand who spread the Irish left and then right before a fine long pass from Sivivatu found lock Brad Thorn on the left wing and he made no mistake to bullock his way across the line.
Ireland's best chance came after lock Paul O'Connell tapped at a penalty and in the subsequent play the All Blacks were stretched on their left but a poor pass by prop Marcus Horan flew straight into touch.
Ireland also attempted several moves from set play but mistakes at crucial times upset their momentum often enough to prevent them keeping the pressure on the All Blacks.
However, second five-eighths Luke Fitzgerald demonstrated some classy touches while centre Brian O'Driscoll was well contained by the All Blacks defence.
New Zealand 22 (Penalty try, Ma'a Nonu, Brad Thorn tries; Dan Carter pen, 2 con)
Ireland 3 (Ronan O'Gara pen).