Auckland – New Zealand scored six tries in a compelling attacking display to beat Ireland 42-19 in the first Test of the three-match series at Eden Park on Saturday.
The All Blacks were in command after opening up a 28-5 half-time lead and Ireland’s problems were compounded by captain Johnny Sexton being forced off with a head knock that will put him in doubt for the second Test in a week’s time.
The home side’s finishing was the difference in a relatively even contest, their individual skill often the basis of breaks while Ireland had to work hard to create their three tries.
New Zealand loose forward Ardie Savea scored two tries, including a dynamic second-half score, while fullback Jordie Barrett converted every try and crossed himself in a 17-point haul.
The result maintains Ireland’s record of having never beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand, a run they were hoping to overturn after winning three of the previous five Tests between the nations.
It also extends New Zealand’s remarkable unbeaten streak at Eden Park, where they have won 45 of 47 Tests since 1994 with two draws.
Ireland’s hopes nosedived when they lost Sexton to concussion in the first half.
The veteran fly-half failed a head injury assessment and is likely to miss the second Test in Dunedin next Saturday under Rugby protocols, adding to a mounting injury list.
New Zealand also had to overcome disruption in the build-up, losing the services of seven members of coaching and playing staff to Covid-19.
But it did not show in a strong response to heavy defeats to Ireland and France on their northern hemisphere tour at the end of 2021.