In dismantling Ireland 46-14 in the quarter-final in Tokyo on Saturday evening, the All Blacks put in arguably one of their finest ever performances in a World Cup knockout match. The victory set up a blockbuster semifinal showdown with Eddie Jones' England...and Liam Napier highlights five things we now know from the match.
Sevu Reece has arrived
Of all the selection punts the All Blacks took this year, Reece carried the most risk.
The rewards were obvious, given his form on the edge for Crusaders, but the step up to test level can daunt even the most talented athletes.
Reece nailed his first audition against the Wallabies at Eden Park to confirm he could handle the occasion.
He then started the World Cup with some shaky moments in the opening win over the Springboks but quickly found his feet.
Against Ireland, there were fears Reece may be targeted and, potentially, exposed by Conor Murray's box kicking.
Not only did he cope with this aspect but Reece's defence impressed.
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On several occasions, he made great reads to jam in off his wing and make spot tackles that immediately stopped overlaps. On attack, he made the most of his roaming commission to pop up on the other side of the field – notably reeling in Jack Goodhue's slick offload with one-hand and then delivering a peach of a ball to put George Bridge on the outside in the lead up to Aaron Smith's second try.
No more was the All Blacks' improvement in the face of Andy Farrell's line speed clear.
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Far from being overawed, Reece is proving he may be born for this stage.
Kieran Read no spent force
Often unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's domineering shadow, Read seems intent on etching his legacy in Japan.
Getting to this tournament has not been easy - Read had to recover from back surgery and be patient with his return to form.
Partly because he's now used in a different role by the All Blacks – in the middle of the park rather than on the edge – he's been painted as a faded force in some quarters.
Those who wrote him off are now eating their words. Read was phenomenal against Ireland. He carried 18 times – one of those finishing with an offload for Codie Taylor's try.
But it was Read's defence that really stood out. Alongside Sam Cane, he laid on several crushing hits to force Irish errors and finish with 13 tackles. In a tournament of plentiful cards, Read is setting the example of how to hit low and hard. More importantly, he is leading with words and deeds as well as any former captain.
All Blacks' unsung hero
The evolution of the All Blacks attack continues to capture imagination yet it was defence that set the tone against Ireland.
One missed tackle in the first half says everything about the intent and urgency they arrived with.
Much has been made of the basic Irish handling errors but many of those came directly from crunching hits.
Ireland's attack is limited at best but Scott McLeod deserves credit for leading this smothering defensive masterclass.
Steve Hansen has a way of turning prophet.
He said this week that sport, like life, is not always fair, that when fate hits you on the chin, true character is revealed.
We haven't yet witnessed Hansen fronting after a World Cup defeat as head coach – the All Blacks have now won 18 in a row in this arena – but you can be near certain he would accept it better than most.
His character in victory cannot be faulted, either.
There was no hint of gloating from Hansen or the All Blacks.
Quite the opposite, in fact. They swiftly pushed aside their utter dominance to act with grace and humility.
First, it was the guard of honour for departing Ireland captain Rory Best.
Then Read spending a moment with Peter O'Mahony and his daughter.
Hansen's first point of call at the press conference was paying tribute to Ireland counterpart Joe Schmidt and Best.
Hansen knows the knives will be out after Ireland failed so spectacularly to break their quarterfinal heartache.
Rather than put the boot in, he offered a hand of support.
It's this sort of dignified class that sees the All Blacks set benchmarks on and off the field.
Strap in for a doozy
There's no doubt England represents a major step up for the All Blacks.
The balance of judging the All Blacks against Ireland and, similarly, England against Australia is somewhat difficult because both opponents were poor.
The Wallabies, who slipped to seventh in the world rankings, are an average team.
This year's version of Ireland aren't much, if any, better. After the heights of last year they have fallen off the cliff.
The All Blacks confirmed Ireland's stunning regression from world's best 11 months ago to confidence-devoid battlers.
Their basic skills really were that bad.
Ireland dropped off 29 tackles and missed touch from penalties three times, for heaven's sake.
Australia and Ireland both had no plan B, no real idea of how to counter their opponents' strengths.
That won't be the case with England and the All Blacks.
Both are quality outfits.
Both deserve respect.
Strap in for a doozy.