Ireland crushed by All Blacks
Ireland 3 New Zealand 22:It began with a hugely entertaining version of Kapa O Pango that ignited the packed house at Croke Park but the ending was a familiar one; New Zealand's calculated brilliance and control, despite aggressive Irish resistance, proving too much for Declan Kidney's team.
The opening 40 minutes saw New Zealand dominate territorially, but the inability of the world's best player Dan Carter to kick two straight forward penalties left the score at 3-3 entering injury time thanks to a fine Ronan O'Gara penalty on 37 minutes.
Then disaster stuck as Tommy Bowe was sin-binned for deliberately slapping the ball into touch, inches before Richie McCaw could touch down. South African referee Mark Lawrence hardly endeared himself to the 81,214 crowd by awarding a penalty try that undid Ireland's excellent first half defensive effort.
Ireland targeted Keven Mealamu's throw at the New Zealand lineout with O'Gara continually taking the kicking option despite initial signs that new centre pairing Brian O'Driscoll and Luke Fitzgerald were capable of shredding the All Black defensive line. David Wallace also looked sharp when bouncing off Rodney So'oialo on a gut busting 20 metre dash.
Alan Quinlan was doing his job: frustrating the Kiwi's at the breakdown, while Paul O'Connell heaped further misery on Carter, blocking a clearing kick and collaring Brad Thorn near the New Zealand line. A try looked on after a neat O'Driscoll offload only for a Joe Rokocoko intercept that saved a certain try.
Lawrence redeemed himself in the crowd's eyes just two minutes into the second-half when he sent Tony Woodcock to the bin, O'Gara's subsequent penalty from the half way line coming up short.
New Zealand's response saw them significantly up the tempo with Ma'a Nonu exploiting a limping O'Connell to race clear. Carter's conversion made it 17-3 and that appeared to be that despite over half an hours rugby left to be played.
The hammer blow arrived on 52 minutes when successive skip passes by Carter and Sivuvatu put Brad Thorn charging at Bowe with McCaw in support. The former Brisbane Broncos lock didn't need his captain, bursting through the Osprey winger before Jamie Heaslip could get across.
Ireland duly threw caution to the wind but after a decent half break by O'Driscoll, Marcus Horan spurned a two man overlap by recklessly flinging the ball into touch.
The All Blacks head to Limerick for Tuesday's meeting with Munster still the top ranked side in world rugby. This performance merely confirmed their status.
The Grand Slam looks like a distinct possibility as they travel on to the Millennium Stadium, the venue where they came unstuck in last years World Cup quarter-final against France, and then on to Twickenham.
Ireland must quickly bury this disappointment as a defining clash with Argentina comes next Saturday. Another defeat could possibly see them slip out of the top eight nations and as a result into a nightmare World Cup pool. The IRB draw takes place on December 1st.
Scoring sequence - 25 mins: D Carter pen, 3-0; 37 mins: R O'Gara pen, 3-3; 40 mins: pen try, 10-3. Half-time. 47 mins: M Nonu try, 15-3; D Carter conv, 17-3; B Thorn try, 22-3
Ireland: G Dempsey; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), L Fitzgerald, R Kearney; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; M Horan, R Best, J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell; A Quinlan, D Wallace, J Heaslip. Replacements: J Flannery for R Best (57 mins), S Ferris for P O'Connell (60 mins), E Reddan for T O'Leary (67 mins), K Earls for G Dempsey (70 mins), P Wallace for L Fitzgerald (74 mins), T Buckley for J Hayes, S Jennings for D Wallace (both 76 mins)
New Zealand: M Muliaina; J Rokocoko, C Smith, M Nonu, S Sivivatu; D Carter, J Cowan; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, N Tialata; B Thorn, A Williams; J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), R So'oialo. Replacements: J Afoa for J Kaino (temp sub, 46 mins), P Weepu for J Cowan (59 mins), N Tialata for T Woodcock (67 mins), K Read for R So'oialo (70 mins), S Donald for J Rokocoko (75 mins)
Referee: M Lawrence (SARFU).
Sin bin: T Bowe 40-50 mins, T Woodcock 42-52 mins.
Man of the match: Ali Williams (New Zealand).