Ireland's wait for a maiden victory against New Zealand continues after they suffered their heaviest defeat against the All Blacks. Outscored by nine tries to four, it was a bad night for the Irish who have failed to beat the New Zealanders in 23 test matches.
Reduced to 14 men when number eight Jamie Heaslip was sent off with just over 15 minutes gone, the visitors never stood a chance against a fired-up All Blacks outfit and matters just got worse when Ronan O'Gara was sin-binned for cynical play midway through the first period. By half-time the hosts were 38-7 up after tries by Conrad Smith, Kieran Read, Ben Franks and two for Jimmy Cowan.
Dan Tuohy, who had come on for the injured Mick O'Driscoll, brought a moment of cheer for the Irish with a try just before the break but the good moments were few and far between. The tries kept coming for both sides in the second spell with Smith, Sam Whitelock (two) and Neemia Tialata going over for the All Blacks and Brian O'Driscoll, Tommy Bowe and Gordon D'Arcy touching down for consolation scores.
Worryingly though, the Irish injury toll also showed no sign of abating. John Hayes was ruled out with a virus before kick-off to be replaced by Tony Buckley and before half-time John Muldoon and Mick O'Driscoll departed.
Irish captain O'Driscoll admitted Heaslip's sending off had a massive impact on the game but added: "In fairness to the All Blacks they were in their stride anyway. It didn't help matters though. It's difficult playing against the All Blacks with 15 players. When we lost Jamie, then Rog [O'Gara] to the yellow card we were chasing shadows a bit. It was a tough period of time."
Neither O'Driscoll nor coach Declan Kidney wanted to comment on Barnes' decision, saying they had not had chance to look closely at the incident before facing the media. McCaw was similarly reluctant to voice his opinion, but did confirm he was kneed. "He got sent off for a knee. I don't think I should talk too much about it because it's before the judiciary and I've been told not to talk too much about it," the New Zealand captain said. "Obviously it was dealt with by what the ref saw and that's all you can ask."
O'Driscoll was more forthcoming about O'Gara's sin-binning. "I don't think there can be any complaints on the yellow card," he said. "Rog pulled Cory Jane back and probably stopped a try. I don't want to get into the fairness of them [the cards]. You've got to deal with these things. Unfortunately sometimes they are the cards that you're dealt and you've got to suck it up."
Despite the record score against them, O'Driscoll still felt there were some positives to come out of the match – not least the character his side showed in the second spell when he, Bowe and D'Arcy added further tries to Tuohy's late first-half effort. "It was a bad defeat. But I'm ever the positive person and you've got to take the good things that you can out of every game," O'Driscoll said. "There were certainly some of those in the second half. I'm delighted that we were able to show a bit of bottle in the second half and play some good stuff."
As for the injuries though, Muldoon was taken to hospital with a suspected displaced fracture in his arm, while Mick O'Driscoll suffered back spasms that affected him down his hamstring.
"Our doctor has just gone to the hospital now to see what the best [course of action is], whether they should operate on it straight away or just buy 24 hours and see what to do," Kidney said of Muldoon's injury. "Micko's in a bit of discomfort at the moment. He's just quite sore. He was good going into the game. Sometimes these things have a way of sorting themselves out again. The next 24 hours will tell that."
Kidney said no decision had been made on whether a replacement would be called in with Muldoon ruled out and Heaslip also in doubt. "We'll take a look at that because we just have the six back rows with us and we have a game [against New Zealand Maori] in six days."
NEW ZEALAND I Dagg; C Jane, C Smith, B Stanley, J Rokocoko; D Carter, Q Cowan; B Franks, K Mealamu, O Franks; B Thorn, A Boric; J Kaino, R McCaw, K Read Subs V Vito for Kaino, 38 mins; P Weepu for Cowan, h-t; S Whitelock for Thorn, 50 mins; N Tialata for B Franks, 52 mins; A Cruden for Carter, 54 mins; A de Malmanche and Z Guildford for Mealamu and Jane, both 63 mins; B Franks for O Franks, 70 mins
IRELAND R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, A Trimble; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; C Healy, S Cronin, T Buckley; D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll; J Muldoon, D Wallace, J Heaslip Subs S Jennings for Muldoon, 31 mins; D Tuohy for M O'Driscoll, 35 mins; E Reddan, J Sexton and G Murphy for O'Leary, O'Gara, and Kearney, all 70 mins; J Fogarty for Cronin, 75 mins; T Court for Healy, 78 mins Sin bin O'Gara, 24-34 mins Red card Heaslip, 15 mins