The All Black season and the Steve Hansen era good off to a pretty solid start last night. New Zealand beat Ireland 42-10 at Eden Park, and still the Irish wait for an historic first win against the All Blacks.
Most importantly, none of the debutants looked out of place in test match rugby. Brodie Retallick hid himself away in the tight as a good lock should, but did plenty of the grunt work at ruck and maul. Aaron Smith was outstanding at halfback, and the All Black backline benefitted from his snappy, accurate passing. And the Irish fullback Rob Kearney got an immediate introduction to Julian Savea when the big winger bent him in half in a tackle early in the match. From there on Savea looked right at home; play flowed his way, and three tries was the result.
And around those three, there were some other tremendous performances. Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter played their best matches of the season, and the McCaw/Read/Vito combination went well until Vito was replaced in the second half with an injury. The scrum was powerful, and the lineout was efficient.
The Irish constantly double-teamed Sonny Bill Williams, but that created space out wide which Israel Dagg exploited, and from which Savea profited. And late in the game Aaron Cruden gave a glimpse of his potential with a sizzling run.
The Irish as always were brave and resolute, but they were simply outclassed; there's no other way of saying it. Their lone try came from a loose ball being hacked through and winger Fergus McFadden out-sprinted McCaw in an unfair contest. Their defence close to the ruck was solid, but they had little in the way of answers when the All Blacks got the ball wide; which they did quite often!