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All Blacks grind out win over Irish

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The All Blacks were forced to rely heavily on the tenacious foraging skills of Richie McCaw as they ground out a 27-17 win over Ireland in a Test played in atrocious weather conditions at Eden Park on Saturday.


A chilly southerly wind, heavy rain and a slippery ball dictated it would not be champagne rugby and it was McCaw who ensured the All Blacks adapted best to the conditions.


With help from scrumhalf Bryon Kelleher, McCaw marshalled his forwards to stay together and drive through Ireland, creating what limited chances there were for the backs who were largely reduced to kicking for territory.


“We felt if we could wear them down scrum after scrum the points would come and they did,” McCaw said.


“Early in the game we played some pretty good rugby, considering the conditions. In the second half we tried to play for field position but the ball was squirting around all over the show.” McCaw was clearly ahead of David Wallace in the hunt for valuable possession in the breakdown, which more than compensated for the All Blacks lineout woes where Irish giant Paul O’Connell dominated.


If ever Ireland were to rewrite 101 years of history without a win against the All Blacks it was to be in this series, with a contentious All Blacks’ plan to treat the Tests as a trial and field a less than full-strength squad.


But after being overrun in the dying stages of the first Test a week ago, Ireland were never ahead here, leaving captain Brian O’Driscoll disappointed with the outcome.


“It was the exact same situation two weeks in a row. We found ourselves within touching distance of the All Blacks going into the last few minutes and we kind of let them off the hook,” he said.


“When we got to within three points of them we felt we had them on the rack … It was a hard fought Test match and sometimes you have to grind those ones out and the fact that we didn’t manage to grind that one out is a huge disappointment to us.” Ireland’s problems started in the forwards where the All Blacks front row of Carl Hayman, Keven Mealamu and Clarke Dermody, twisted the Irish pack at will.


Even with Ireland controlling the lineouts, the All Black pack made sure scrumhalf Peter Stringer was denied clean ball.


Although the outcome always appeared safe, Ronan O’Gara had the chance to put the first points on the board for Ireland in the second minute, but his penalty from the halfway line dropped under the bar.


The All Blacks eventually started the scoreboard moving over when an Aaron Mauger kick saw Gordon D’Arcy caught on the line by Casey Laulala, and when the All Blacks’ reinforcements arrived Kelleher dived around the ruck for a try.


McAlister converted for what was to be the first of 17 points from a try, two penalties and three conversions.


He landed a penalty in the 22nd minute and then converted a try by Clarke Dermody who snapped up what appeared to be a knock on from Chris Jack on the line.


At 17-0, the All Blacks were set to run away with the match, but the Irish had other ideas as their go-to man in the forwards, O’Connell, took a dominating roll.


First he brushed aside a feeble Kelleher tackle, and burrowed through the All Blacks’ forwards to score Ireland’s first try.


Then, after Ireland turned down a penalty shot at goal, O’Connell was the central figure in a lineout drive which resulted in a try to Jerry Flannery.


O’Gara converted both and Ireland had narrowed the gap to 14-20 at the turn.


He added another penalty 10 minutes into t

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