Sat, 23 Jun 2012 8:33p.m.
Opinion by Rugby Reporter Jim Kayes
Two of rugby's greatest players were out of position when the All Blacks ran out against Ireland in Hamilton. Dan Carter was sitting in the stands nursing a hamstring injury, while Richie McCaw ran on wearing an eight, rather than a seven, for the first time in his 100th start in his 106th test. It didn't stop the All Blacks rolling over the top of a hapless Irish side clearly running on fumes after 17 tests in 10 months.
In Carter's absence Aaron Cruden produced a sublime performance before retiring hurt in the 23rd minute. He'd had a hand in each of the All Blacks four tries, showing his ability to hit the line at pace and offload in the tackle. Carter's still the king but his heir apparent isn't too shabby, while Beauden Barrett had a tidy debut as Cruden's replacement.
And the bloke wearing seven was rather handy too. Sam Cane will remember his first test try fondly, and the second with a smile, and can reflect on a McCaw like performance around the field, his tackle and turnover in the 27th minute straight out of all good open side flanker's play books. The 20-year-old was still at full throttle when he was replaced in the 69th minute.
It was also encouraging to see Hosea Gear score from a rampaging run that left Keith Earls seriously dazed, while Liam Messam had some big moments on defence and it was his break that created Cane's second try before another run saw Messam score his second test try. Sonny Bill Williams also showed the benefits of starting all three tests while Ma'a Nonu put his feet up, deft kicks now as big a weapon for Williams as his superb offload. Hooker Keven Mealamu also made a welcome return from a calf injury.
The 60-0 win was the All Blacks' 26th against Ireland in their 27th meeting (they drew in1973) and the 60 points their largest margin after the 59-6 win in Wellington in 1992 and just shy of the most points scored - 63-15 in Dublin in 1997. It was also the first time Ireland failed to score any points against the All Blacks since 1924.
The win was the almost peerless McCaw's 94th, moving him one ahead of the great Wallaby halfback George Gregan for the most test wins by any player.