COMMENT by Gregor Paul in Tokyo
There's nothing quite like it when the All Blacks find their sweet spot and mix beauty and brawn in a heady concoction that probably gets somewhere close to being how the gods want the game to be played.
New Zealand in the right mood as they so obviously were against Ireland can only be stopped by the miraculously brave and the fabulously inventive.
Ireland were neither and so they were hit by this runaway train of an All Blacks side that has found itself at precisely the sort of time that is quite useful for teams to find themselves.
Some may be keen to now stamp them as champions-elect after demolishing Ireland. Maybe they are, although England and South Africa would wriggle a bit about that.
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But the All Blacks, whatever they are, are going to be phenomenally hard to beat because they are playing beyond the imagination of most defence coaches.
The Irish will fly home tomorrow and start to realise that they witnessed the point in time that signalled the days of the rush defence are over and that they are light years behind New Zealand in speed of thought, deed and execution.
The All Blacks have taken a sort of Neil Armstrong-size stride towards the title, not just because they won, but because of what they now appear to be capable of.
An attack game that looked lost and confused 11 months ago when they last played Ireland didn't have the first hint of uncertainty about it in Tokyo.
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It was beyond impressive. It was at times almost bordering on perfect rugby the marriage of speed, skill, physicality and imagination was intoxicating. A rugby drug if ever there was one.
The All Blacks were direct, they were polished, they were creative, they were accurate. They hit up the middle. They went wide. They went all over the place, when they liked and how they liked.
The speed was frenetic and yet the execution wasn't which is why Ireland stood, dazed, dumbfounded, clinging on to nothing hoping that it would all just end without too much humiliation so they could get on a plane and lick their wounds in peace.
They must have wondered how on earth they won last year and how on earth the gap between them became so fantastically large in the interim.
They should have been able to compile a fairly long list as the game passed them by. They must have realised that the speed was the biggest difference.
The All Blacks were a million miles an hour and kept it like that for 80 minutes. The intensity of their defence and discipline were on a different scale too.
They gave Ireland nothing – no easy ins to the game. No cheap shots at goal and not a damaging number of pressure-relieving, needless penalties.
Then there was the Richie Mo'unga-Beauden Barrett partnership and their constant buzz of good ideas.
The ability of Kieran Read to slip the ball out of the tackle to other forwards. The ability of all the forwards to do that in fact.
The mobility of the props – all four of them. They ran and they tackled while in Dublin they just scrummed.
The awareness every time they had the ball – to take their time to pick the right option. To not panic and be willing to play behind the gain line.
The list could go on and on but really, the All Blacks were infinitely better at everything than they were last year in Dublin and they have quite clearly re-invented themselves and what is possible.
When they turn up with that difficult to strike balance of fire in the blood and ice in the brain, a team of limited old cart horses like Ireland never stood a chance.