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All Blacks overcome bold Ireland 42-19 in 1st test

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (AP) – Rocked by an early Irish onslaught, the All Blacks staged a superb recovery to score four first-half tries yesterday on the way to a 42-19 win over Ireland in the first match of a three-test series.

Ireland had the All Blacks at sixes and sevens with the intensity of its performance in the first quarter at Eden Park. It rattled the All Blacks with the first try of the match to veteran winger Keith Earls after only six minutes and had the New Zealand team mostly in retreat.

The Irish start had All Blacks fans fearing a repeat of New Zealand’s losses to Ireland in three of their last five meetings, including the most recent in Dublin last year.

But the match was transformed in the 21st minute when the All Blacks scored their first try through fullback Jordie Barrett to seize a 7-5 lead against the run of play. Winger Sevu Reece dashed 80 metres for an intercept try in the 30th and Ireland suddenly was thrown onto the back foot.

New Zealand’s resurgence turned around a critical moment in the match when Ireland’s talismanic captain Johnny Sexton left the field for a head injury assessment and didn’t return. Ireland seemed shaken by the loss of Sexton’s composed presence and New Zealand ran in tries to centre Quinn Tupaea and backrower Ardie Savea to lead 28-5 at halftime.

Ireland’s Joey Carbery is tackled by New Zealand’s Rieko Ioane (L) during the rugby international between the All Blacks and Ireland at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. PHOTO: AP

Ireland also scored the first try of the second half through center Garry Ringrose. Sexton’s replacement Joey Carbery added the conversion to cut New Zealand’s lead to 28-12.

New Zealand rallied again, this time with far more composure and concerted purpose.

Savea won a lineout on the left-hand touch then raced across field to be the third ball All Blacks, stepping through tackles to score his second try.

Ireland’s luck had changed with the momentum of the match. Carbery went close to scoring but lost the ball over the goalline in Rieko Ioane’s tackle.

From a subsequent penalty the Ireland backrower Josh van der Flier dived across the line under the posts but he also lost control of the ball in the dive and the All Blacks once more were reprieved.

With those misfortunes Ireland’s hopes of a fourth win over the All Blacks since their first in 2016, and their first ever in New Zealand, slipped away.

New Zealand attacked again and, choosing to take a scrum from a penalty under the posts, they turned the Irish pack and No 8 Pita Gus Sowakula scored a try on debut.

Ireland had the last score with a try in the 77th minute to New Zealand-born centre Bundee Aki who also scored in Ireland’s 32-17 loss to New Zealand Maori on Wednesday.

“It’s a good start to the year for sure,” New Zealand captain Sam Cane said. “It’s always challenging coming in with just 10 days preparation. On the game, we were good in patches and we’ve got a lot to work on.”

Even in defeat, Ireland might have found the seeds of a future victory in the two tests remaining in the series. They showed that when they win quick ruck ball they can stretch the All Blacks’ defense, but a winning effort will require them to achieve that for longer periods.

They scored three tries to the All Blacks’ six but they also crossed the New Zealand line on several more occasions and they forced New Zealand to make almost 200 tackles.