Here's an interesting question. Take Beauden Barrett out of that test match this morning and do the All Blacks still win?

If ever there was a game where Barrett underlined why he was named World Rugby's Player of the Year in London earlier in the week, it was this encounter in Dublin.

His contribution to a game where the All Blacks barely had the ball was immense.

He set up the first try with that superb cross kick to Malakai Fekitoa, scored the second with a brilliant scything run and handled twice in the match-sealing touchdown including a critical pass to TJ Perenara to set up Fekitoa for his second try.


Even without the ball in his hands, Barrett was dynamic.

By my count, he came up with three match-turning tackles - one on a rampaging Sean O'Brien, another copybook one from behind and a third one when he lowered flanker Josh van der Flier smashed through the middle of our pack during a critical Irish attacking move.

In short, Barrett offered the X-factor that Ireland didn't have.

The cool-headed No. 10 wasn't the sole reason we won but he had damn big say in the final scoreline.

I think when Ireland regroup and analyse this match, they will have some regrets over their approach at different key times of the match.

I was often confused over what they were trying to achieve.

There were times when they had the All Blacks on the ropes but left points on the field by taking the soft option.

They played very well, no doubt about that. Their domination of possession and territory, and just about every other stat that wins a game, underlined that.

But they weren't as smart and savvy as they were in Chicago and it cost them.

I've been in All Blacks dressing rooms, particularly earlier in my career, where I've sat down after a test and gone: 'How the hell did we win that?"

I think there would have been a similar feeling among the guys today.

Twenty odd missed tackles is a lot. And it was disconcerting to see one Irish prop brush off three would-be All Blacks tacklers and O'Brien do the same.

But when tackles had to be made, they were made. When the scrum had to hold, it did. When the lineout had to be won, it was.

Even though they couldn't get into the parts of the field they wanted to, the All Blacks won because they played sensible rugby and took their chances -- albeit with Barrett the key influence.

Ireland probably had 20 to 25 opportunities to score points in that match and the All Blacks had a mere handful. Yet one side scored three tries and the other none.

Great teams learn how to win even when they're not having a good day. They still get the job done and that's exactly what New Zealand did.

That must have been demoralising for Ireland. Look at the way they dominated the opening exchanges of the second half. And then, bang, out of nowhere the All Blacks score. That would do your head in if you were the opposition.

I know there's been a bit of complaining about the All Blacks' tactics, including their tackling, and also of Jaco Peyper's refereeing. But I don't think the Irish were hard done by, or that the South African had a poor game with the whistle.

Yes, there were discipline problems from the All Blacks that do worry me and, yes, the penalty count was very high against New Zealand. That's perhaps not surprising given the All Blacks were doing the bulk of defending and struggling to get their hands on the ball.

But I felt Peyper did a reasonable job. He and the match officials got the Sam Cane call right in the first half despite the best efforts of the Irish players and crowd to convince the ref there had been foul play.

I also don't think there is any animosity between the two teams.

Far from it. Both sets of coaches actually went out for a drink together on the Thursday before the test. That's the level of respect that exists between the two sides and coaching staffs.

If anything else has come out of this All Blacks' northern tour, other than a growing respect for Irish rugby, it's the realisation for New Zealand rugby fans that it could be an almighty tour by the British and Irish Lions next year.

After what we've seen from Ireland in their last three tests against us, plus the rejuvenation of England under Eddie Jones, anybody who thinks next year will be a walk in the park and a 3-0 clean sweep like 2005 is dreaming.

Unlike last time they were here, the Lions will have a coach in Warren Gatland who knows the type of rugby that is needed to beat the All Blacks (with a heavy blueprint provided by Ireland and Joe Schmidt) and the players to execute it.

The Lions will also have depth - the one area where every other opposition has consistently struggled against New Zealand.

Look at the depth at No. 9 and 10 alone - Connor Murray, Jonny Sexton, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Dan Biggar, Greig Laidlaw.

That's something else in terms of the talent Gatland will have at his disposal.

Unilke 2005, I think the Lions will get their selections and playing style right this time.

If we didn't already have a healthy regard for next year's visitors, we do now.

It is shaping as a magnificent tour.