New Zealand produced a superb defensive effort as they exacted a measure of revenge for their defeat two weeks ago in Chicago.
New Zealand started the game with real intensity battering the Irish defence and moving forward relentlessly. The Irish defended for five minutes but they finally ran short of men as Fekitoa went over in the corner. Barrett converted from out wide to make it 7-0 after five minutes.
Ireland responded from the restart driving deep into New Zealand territory and were twice held up over the line before Sexton decided to take some reward in the form of a penalty. NZ 7-3 after ten minutes.
From the restart Ireland lost Robbie Henshaw after what was adjudged a clash of heads with Sam Cane as the All Black tackled high. Referee Peyper decided it was just a penalty but the incident may result in a citing.
Josh van der Flier – impressive replacement
Young centre Gary Ringrose came on for Henshaw and he was joined by fellow subs Paddy Barnes and Josh van der Flier as Ireland lost Sexton and Stander to injury before half time. New Zealand also lost Cane, replaced by Ardie Savea, in an attritional first 40.
New Zealand looked much sharper and that was largely thanks to the performance of Barrett who sliced open the Irish defence from a set move. He raced in under the Irish posts and added the extras to make it 14-3 with just 14 minutes on the clock.
Shortly after the restart Aaron Smith got a ten minute rest having come in from the side as Ireland threatened in the New Zealand 22. Ireland could only manage one penalty from replacement outhalf Jackson while they had an extra man, making it 14-6 after 24 minutes.
Barrett had the ball under the Irish posts again with ten minutes to the break but he knocked on as he tried to strip the ball – no try. Ireland’s accuracy with their kicks and with ball in hand let them down but it was largely due to All Black pressure.
Half time score: New Zealand 14 – Ireland 6
Paddy Jackson – subbed well for Johnny Sexton
Ireland upped the intensity after the break pinning New Zealand in their 22. Some great defence led by Read and Retallick kept the Irish at bay. The pressure told as Fekitoa saw yellow for a high tackle on Zebo after fifty minutes.
Ireland kicked to the corner but as was the case for much of the game New Zealand disrupted the lineout and Irish ball was scrappy resulting in a knock-on.
Ireland continued to apply pressure but with no signs of a try coming the order came from the sidelines to take the points from a penalty on 58 minutes. Jackson did so and made it a one-score game at 14-9.
Ireland then went in search of a try to put them ahead with both Ringrose and Van der Flier making breaks but the New Zealand defence was up to the task every time Ireland got a sniff. With 15 minutes remaining Ireland were looking tired as their efforts took their toll.
New Zealand then twisted the knife with great interplay between Cruden and Barrett, now playing fullback, leading to a score from Fekitoa on 67 minutes. There was a hint of a forward pass from TJ Penara; so much so that Rory Best left his station under the posts to query it with Peyper before the conversion was taken. After Best was reminded that there are no captain referrals Barrett converted to make it 21-9.
Ireland did produce some moments of excitement in the final ten minutes, but they just didn’t have the legs or the handling as they looked physically drained.
Final score: New Zealand 21 Ireland 9.
Malakai Foketi – hero and villain – scored two tries and one yellow card
The wrap up
Ireland made New Zealand work hard for this one. In the end the accuracy wasn’t there when they needed it most. They can be proud of this performance and when taken with the game in Chicago they can be pretty pleased.
New Zealand disrupted the Irish lineout superbly and their defence was rock solid led by Read and the returning Retallick. They had the moments of quality when needed to make the difference between the sides.
The game changer
The second Fekitoa try made it a two-score game approaching ten minutes to go. Right up to that point Ireland were in with a shout.
Man of the match
Heaslip impressed for Ireland and early substitutes Ringrose and van der Flier really stood out. Both have bright futures ahead of them.
Retallick was a real nuisance in the lineout and defended manfully alongside Read as they poached Irish ball. The difference between the sides though was the performance of Beauden Barrett and he scoops the Green and Gold Man of the Match.
Beauden Barrett – another brilliancy from the All Black first-five
[one_half last=”no”]Ireland – 9
Penalties: J. Sexton (9), P. Jackson (24′, 57′). [/one_half]
[one_half last=”yes”]New Zealand – 21
Tries: M. Fekitoa (2′, 65′), B. Barrett (15′).
Conversions: B. Barrett (4′, 14′, 56′).[/one_half]
[one_half last=”no”]Cards: A. Smith (17′), M. Fekitoa (48′) [/one_half][one_half last=”yes”]Crowd: 51,700 approx [/one_half]