New Zealand bounced back from last week's close call in style with an impressive 60-0 hammering of Ireland in Hamilton on Saturday.
After the heartbreakingly narrow defeat of last week, Ireland were no match for the effervescent All Blacks, who scored four tries in the first 25 minutes and looked dangerous at every turn. Dominated at the tackle - most unlike the Irish - and shredded out wide, the Irish just could not muster the spirit or precision of last week and were plain annihilated.
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect for the ABs was the nilling, however. Tries have never been a problem for this generation, but the fact that Ireland not only didn't score, they had only one kick at goal and barely once got close to crossing the whitewash will be a source of immense pride to Richie McCaw and his men. Ireland's most promising-looking first-half attack ended in a mistake and an All Black try. The overall penalty count against the hosts was ridiculously low.
Within seven minutes New Zealand had the advantage, Sam Cane finishing off a sweeping move out right. On a quarter of an hour Aaron Cruden produced a dart and a brilliant offload to put Sonny Bill Williams through the gap for the second. On 20 minutes it was the Cruden-Williams axis again, this time on a well-timed switch. And on 24 minutes it was an Irish error - Brian O'Driscoll spilling an ill-directed switch pass from Paddy Wallace - that gifted the ball to Cruden. Cruden scorched away and the two Smiths, Conrad and Ben, combined on straight lines and soft hands to send Ben away in the corner. It was all that simple, all that devastating.
The loss of Cruden to injury - a possible worry for both the Chiefs and the All Blacks - stymied the attacking rhythm for a while but did little to change the domination. Beauden Barrett landed a penalty with the final act of the first half, with the penultimate act being a harsh yellow dished out to Rob Kearney for what looked to be a legitimate interception attempt.
Ireland thus spent the first ten minutes of the second half a man down and paid for it with two more tries, one a series of three inside offloads finished off by Cane under the posts, the other a magnificent 50m finish from Hosea Gear. Barrett could only convert one, but that left Ireland trailing 41-0 after 50 minutes; New Zealand were good value for their near point-a-minute ratio and the Irish body count was rising.
Kearney's return changed nothing. Cane slipped a super ball to Messam on an super line for what was New Zealand's 100th-ever try against Ireland. Barrett's indifferent form with the boot continued as a comparatively easy kick bounced off the uprights.
Williams showed a rare glimpse of his complete skill set with a well-judged opportunistic grubber deep for Israel Dagg to run in the eighth try on the hour mark, this time Barrett converting.
New Zealand kept attacking, although some handling errors began to creep in. Ireland looked to move from deeper and deeper, presumably playing right into the hosts' hands. A handling error ten minutes from time and super delay of the pass from Barrett saw Adam Thomson run a direct line home for try number nine.
Ireland rallied hard, determined to get something out of the game, but there was no change to be had. In minutes 79, Keven Mealamu's well-timed charge on Eoin Reddan saw the half-back spill the ball and that was that. Firmly that.
Man of the match: Aaron Cruden was putting in a good claim for this until he went off after 25 minutes, Sonny Bill Williams dominated the centres, but it was Sam Cane whose domination in the loose created the space for his team-mates outside, and brace of tries gave his side a commanding lead.
Moment of the match: The fourth try. As exciting as it was clinical, it was curtains for Ireland after that.
Villain of the match: He reffed well, but for a really poor moment of judgement, referee Romain Poite gets this for the yellow card he dished out to Rob Kearney. Brian O'Driscoll called it 'ridiculous'. He was right.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Cane 2, Williams 2, B.Smith, Gear, Messam, Dagg, Thomson
Cons: Cruden 3, Barrett 3
Yellow cards: Kearney,40, Ireland - deliberate knock-on
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Richie McCaw (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Brodie Retallick, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Beauden Barrett, 22 Tamati Ellison.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (c), 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Declan Fitzpatrick, 18 Donncha O'Callaghan, 19 Chris Henry, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Andrew Trimble.
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzere (France), James Leckie (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)