Ireland 7 New Zealand 45
New Zealand continued their victory march around the home nations with a thumping triumph over Ireland which sounded an ominous warning for the rest of world rugby.
Wingers Sitiveni Sivivatu and Doug Howlett – two players hoping to force their way back into Graham Henry’s first choice 22 – led the charge with a brace and Piri Weepu also crossed, while the boot of Nick Evans did the rest.
Apart from a rousing opening Ireland never looked capable of halting the tourists’ Grand Slam bid and were often the architects of their own downfall with a number of errors.
Lansdowne Road was brought to its feet with just two minutes on the clock when a long pass from Ronan O'Gara, combined with suspect positioning from All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu, allowed Geordan Murphy to burst into space.
The Leicester full-back fed Tommy Bowe but the rookie international, winning his fourth cap, cut inside when he should have returned the ball to Murphy who had drifted into space on the right.
Ireland continued to enjoy plenty of possession but were let down by poor decision making, Gordon D’Arcy going alone when he should have used the men on his shoulder and Shane Horgan passing to Shane Byrne when half a gap had appeared before him.
But as they have done so many times before, New Zealand soaked up the pressure and hit back with a well-worked 10th-minute try against the run of play, assisted by some sloppy home defending.
Number eight Mose Tuiali’i broke from the back of a scrum in front of the posts and fed the unmarked Sitiveni Sivivatu who had moved off his wing and into midfield where he found his dash to the line unimpeded.
Fly-half Nick Evans slotted the conversion and the All Blacks would have extended their lead had Eaton passed immediately to McCaw instead of trying to burst his way through.
They broke through in the 21st minute, however, when a switch with Evans sent McCaw screaming into space and the openside had the presence of mind to supply the scoring pass to Piri Weepu.
New Zealand were moving through the gears ominously and Ireland were not helping themselves with D’Arcy’s loose pass turning over possession and initiating a fresh All Black assault.
Munster scrum-half Peter Stringer made a try-saving tackle on McCaw in a rare bright spot for the home side who were making too many unforced errors, including at one crucial stage when D’Arcy had released the fumbling Murphy into space.
Evans kept the scoreboard ticking over with two penalties but Ireland burst into action in the 36th minute when number eight Denis Leamy crashed into space, setting up a magnificent platform.
Forwards Malcolm O’Kelly and Johnny O’Connor nearly forced their way through but New Zealand were saved by some brave defending, eventually conceding a penalty which Ireland declined to kick.
Their ambition did not pay off as the All Blacks broke away shortly after, Weepu ghosting behind the Ireland defence and sending Sivivatu over for the tourists’ third try. Evans landed the conversion.
Winger Doug Howlett, who had been looking to get involved at every available opportunity without much luck, found a gap and fly-hacked through but the ball bounced into touch with no one at home for Ireland.
Evans booted two more penalties before Weepu had to scramble back to deal with a dangerous kick and chase from the powerful Horgan who was threatening to get Ireland off the mark.
Controversy reigned in the 52nd minute when Nonu performed a spear-tackle on D’Arcy, bringing back memories of New Zealand skipper Tana Umaga’s infamous challenge on Brian O’Driscoll in the first Test of the summer Lions tour.
The incident resulted in a penalty for Ireland and D’Arcy was able to get up after some brief treatment, but there was no respite for his side with Howlett having a try disallowed by the television match official following excellent work from Anthony Horgan.
Nonu also had a try disallowed in the 62nd minute but the irrepressible All Blacks could not be halted for long with Howlett sprinting n after a slick backs move straight from line-out ball.
Evans converted but Ireland replied with a flourish with Donncha O’Callaghan held up over the line and Murphy knocking on when all he had to do was touch down.
The All Blacks were not finished, however, as Howlett completed his brace on the stroke of full time and Evans improved the try before Marcus Horan claimed a late consolation try for Ireland.