All Blacks annihilate Ireland in third test
Ireland discovered, the painful way, just how deadly a dose of All Black power can be tonight.
Having given them a nasty fright in the second test last weekend, the Irish copped a full-blooded backhander as the New Zealanders sought retribution during their 60-0 win at Waikato Stadium.
In the 'Tron', the All Blacks, who scored nine tries as they accumulated their biggest winning margin against the Irish, were back to their aggressive, bristling best.
They denied the tourists possession for long periods, were angry and organised in defence and so clinical in offence that their numerous offloads and ability to exploit space often had the Irish screaming back to make cover tackles.
This demolition job didn't lack for drama, either.
Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll was furious when his fullback Rob Kearney was yellow carded for attempting an intercept and All Blacks wing Hosea Gear brutally - but legally - clubbed Keith Earls into cuckoo land as he powered his way to a try early in the second spell.
There were even shades of last year's World Cup in this for the All Blacks who chewed through four first five-eighths during that campaign.
With Dan Carter sidelined because of a hamstring injury, Aaron Cruden started at No 10 tonight; but after a dynamite 24 minutes he was replaced by debutant Beauden Barrett.
But it was Reporoa's man of the moment, openside flanker Sam Cane, who initiated the early celebrations as he crossed for the first of his two tries in the opening minutes.
It capped off a prolonged surge by the All Blacks and it was his Chiefs team-mate, Cruden, who appropriately put him into space with a clever offload.
Cruden was far from done.
And what followed reinforced just how dangerous the pride of Manawatu can be with the ball in his mitts.
A scrum near the 40m mark provided the launching pad as he blasted into contact, committed Ireland second-five Paddy Wallace and flipped off a magical no-look transfer to the rampaging Sonny Bill Williams who powered off like a startled thoroughbred.
Williams grabbed his second soon after and, once again, Cruden was crucial in the play.
It was a similiar build-up to Cane's effort; this time, however, Cruden drifted near the posts and sent an inside ball to Williams who sizzled through the tackle of Wallace.
Even when they were able to get the ball Ireland couldn't buy a trick. O'Driscoll coughed up the pill inside the All Blacks' half and - surprise, surprise - it was Cruden who hoovered up the loose ball.
A clever overhead pass to Conrad Smith resulted in right wing Ben Smith dashing into the corner and the All Blacks were up 26-0 after 25 minutes. By then the Irish fans were already guzzling their beers to numb the disappointment of a 3-0 series defeat.
Who were the All Blacks' best?
Take your pick from any man in black but it was hard to go past converted No 8 Richie McCaw who powered his way through a mountain of work.
His combination with the impressive Cane, in the No 7 jersey, also gave coach Steve Hansen something to ponder as the Super season cranks up again.
All Blacks 60 (Sonny Bill Williams 2, Sam Cane 2, Ben Smith, Hosea Gear, Liam Messam, Israel Dagg, Adam Thomson tries; Aaron Cruden 2 cons, Israel Dagg con, Beauden Barrett 3 con; Barrett pen)