November 21, 2010
DUBLIN: New Zealand gave Graham Henry his 100th victory as a Test match coach with a 38-18 win over Ireland at Lansdowne Road here on Saturday that left star fly-half Dan Carter on the brink of a world record.
Carter landed seven goalkicks from eight, only missing with the final touch of the game, for a match haul of 18 points that left him just two shy of England star Jonny Wilkinson's world record of 1178 ahead of next week's tour finale against Wales in Cardiff.
But a win that stretched New Zealand's unbeaten record against Ireland to 23 victories in 24 Tests, with one draw, was anything but straightforward.
The All Blacks were 19-13 ahead at half-time but with Ireland still very much involved in an engrossing match.
But two converted tries early in the second period, from No 8 Kieran Read and replacement forward Samuel Whitelock, took New Zealand into a 20-point lead at 33-13.
That left Ireland with too much to do, despite a bold flourish in the final quarter and in the final minute Read's second try set the seal on a remarkable achievement for Henry, who has now won 77 Tests with the All Blacks, 22 with Wales and one with the British and Irish Lions.
Carter, having succeeded with all seven of his previous goalkicks, was then narrowly off-target. It was a rare error in yet another masterful display.
This result also kept New Zealand on course for a third 'grand slam' in five years ahead of next week's tour finale against Wales in Cardiff.
And it meant both captain Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina could celebrate a 93rd Test appearance that saw them both become the most-capped All Blacks of all-time, breaking former New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick's record, with a hard-fought success.
Ireland, desperately uninspiring in a 20-10 win over Samoa last week, reverted to the bulk of the side that started in a 23-21 defeat by world champions South Africa at Lansdowne Road a fortnight ago.
Carter, kicked New Zealand into a seventh minute lead only for opposite number Jonathan Sexton to draw Ireland level from the halfway line.
Most of the game was being played in Ireland's 22 but their midfield defence held firm, with centre Gordon D'Arcy putting in a thumping tackle on McCaw, who was breaking Fitzpatrick's record on the ground where he made his Test debut back in 2001,
New Zealand's pressure was rewarded by a second Carter penalty.
Ireland though stayed in the game and Sexton levelled the scores.
Minutes later Carter eased the All Blacks in front after Ireland wing Luke Fitzgerald, was penalised for not rolling away.
But Ireland won the ball from the restart and advanced into New Zealand's 22. No 8 Jamie Heaslip, sent-off when the teams last met during the All Blacks' record 66-28 win in New Plymouth in June, found Stephen Ferris.
The blindside flanker burst through a gap in the cover defence between Carter and McCaw for a well-worked try. Sexton converted and Ireland were 13-9 in front.
The remorseless Carter cut Ireland's lead to a point after Ireland collapsed a scrum and New Zealand, having laid siege to the Ireland line, were rewarded when lock Anthony Boric burrowed over for a close range try.
New Zealand then caught Ireland cold, recalled centre Ma'a Nonu and flanker Jerome Kaino creating a try for Read.
Minutes later, McCaw sent in Whitelock for a try that stood despite a suspiciously forward pass from the captain.
But Ireland, undaunted, rallied through a brilliant break from Heaslip, who might have done better to carry on running rather than slowing down and waiting for support.
Ireland were at least in New Zealand's 22 and from a scrum penalty - where the All Blacks were fortunate not to have a player yellow carded - captain Brian O'Driscoll's superb one-handed pick-up saw the centre score a fine try.
However, Sexton's touchline conversion hit the post.
Ireland battled hard and, with five minutes left, might have had a try from replacement back Keith Earls after working an overlap at the far corner.
But replay official Hugh Watkins ruled All Black wing Cory Jane had done enough to prevent Earls grounding the ball.
New Zealand 38 (Kieran Read 2, Anthony Boric, Sam Whitelock tries; Dan Carter 4 penalties, 3 conversions) beat Ireland 18 (Stephen Ferris, Brian O'Driscoll tries, Jonathan Sexton 2 penalties, conversion).
Referee: Marius Jonker (RSA)