Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks give green and whitewash

Sonny Bill Williams makes a break. Photo / Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams makes a break. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand 60 Ireland 0

Ireland might wonder if it was worth the bother of going so close last week. It didn't do them any favours last night, feeling as they did the full force of an All Black side looking for retribution.

Comprehensive doesn't really do the performance justice - it was a record margin of victory and could have been more. Ireland for their part, might consider themselves fortunate to have got nil - not even managing to last a quarter. And this was the All Blacks, without Dan Carter or Kieran Read.

The Irish may even have given serious thought to not coming out for the second half. And who could blame them? What were they supposed to think when they saw 20-year-old Sam Cane inherit the skipper's No 7 jersey and play freakishly like the normal occupant?

Just as demoralising would have been the performance of Aaron Cruden. If the All Blacks were supposedly weakened by the absence of Carter, the memo never reached Cruden's inbox.

What was scarcely credible was the ease with which Beauden Barrett entered the fray midway through the first half.

Surely the presence of, an uncapped 21-year-old who has tried but not been quite able, to grow a moustache, would derail the black machine?

No chance. The Hurricanes first five ambled about in that easy way of his and from not really having any other No 10 than Carter this time last year, New Zealand now, have three.

It was a long, long night for the men in green and maybe always going to be the case - the result in Christchurch,despite the strides Ireland made, was always going to provide greater motivation for the All Blacks.

They were hungry for revenge in Hamilton, keen to make some significant adjustments in attitude, accuracy, aggression and tempo.

They knew they needed a sledge hammer performance to obliterate Ireland into tiny pieces.

They knew they had to reclaim their ascendancy in the scrum - make sure that neither the awaiting Boks nor Pumas fancied their chances at the set-piece.

The handling had to be sharper, the defensive wave quicker off the line and harder in the tackle and the handling sharper. The strike angles had to be better thought out, the timing that bit slicker and the game played in all the right places. Boxes were ticked, ticked and ticked again. Ireland felt the full force of the world champions and by 20 minutes they were thinking of home.

There was nowhere for them to hide. The All Black defence was ferocious - Irish runners being hit by two men, lifted and driven back. The more it happened the less they wanted to know.

Without quick ball, Ireland were forced into pedestrian waddles across the midfield and the All Blacks banged them down harder again. Normal service resumed in the scrum battle where the All Blacks regained much of their mojo without nailing the definitive performance.

But it was at the collision where the All Blacks made the biggest strides. They were lower, harder and faster - blitzing the contact to produce quick ball. That's always the key to the All Blacks game - with fast ball they can create space and when the contest becomes about using possession, it will be theirs every time.

Athleticism, ball skills and rugby nous are the traits that elevate the All Blacks. Pass and run is in their DNA and when they build up a head of steam, get the foundation of their game laid as they did last night, things can get out of hand as they did.

Ireland didn't help themselves by making so many basic mistakes and every time they dropped the ball, they were made to pay. Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams led the charge with their slick movement and outrageous handling. It took only 20 minutes for those two to leave Ireland a dispirited mess: opening up the visitors with their electric partnership.

First they worked Cane over in the far corner, before Williams smashed onto a neat offload by Cruden. The big man scored a second a few minutes later and that was that as far as the contest went. Cruden had to limp off with a damaged knee - which downgraded his effort from potentially commanding to a seriously good cameo.

It was Williams who stole the show in the backs - his full portfolio was on show from line-breaking, to offloading, to adept timing to immaculate kicking.

Ireland had no answers on how to close him down and the visitors ended up being like a giant bag of spinach - promising so much at first, delivering so little in the end.

New Zealand 60 (S. Cane 2, S. Williams 2, B. Smith, H. Gear, L. Messam, I. Dagg, A. Thomson tries; A. Cruden 2 cons; I. Dagg con; B. Barrett pen, 3 cons) Ireland 0

- Herald on Sunday

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