19 minutes: New Zealand enjoy a bit of front-foot ball and move towards the Ireland 22. That’s a reminder that since the first couple of minutes, it’s been all Ireland. Just before that Sexton tried a brave chip and chase in the Ireland half. Farrell wanted to see courage, he is most definitely seeing that.
17 minutes: A great start indeed, but only a start for the moment.
15 minutes: New Zealand win a scrum penalty in the Irish half. A welcome plus point. From the next lineout Ireland snatch the ball back. Sexton kicks ahead and Keenan very, very nearly offloads to Gibson-Park who may have had a clear run to the line. Insead it’s snaffled by the full-back Jordie Barrett who reads it wonderfully. And it would have been a yellow card for the All Black had he dropped that one after juggling it …
11 minutes: Jordie Barrett launches a sniping run from deep on the hosts’ left. He’s brought down, and Peter O’Mahony snatches the ball out of the ruck, making the New Zealand No 9 Smith look a little silly. O’Mahony kicks ahead and Earls is almost on it, but is bundled into touch inside the home 22. It’s all coming up Ireland right now, due to the industrious way Andy Farrell’s men have started the match.
10 minutes: A crunching hit by Ringrose on Cane forces a knock-on and a scrum for Ireland around halfway. New Zealand are going backwards on the field and they are behind on the scoreboard. There are some visibly concerned faces among the All Blacks’ team. If they thought this was going to be an ‘easy’ night, or at least straightforward, they can think again.
Ireland win a slightly lucky penalty for offside. That gives them a chance to move into the All Blacks’ half for the first time. And they mount an excellent attack, moving through multiple phases and stretching the home defense, with Gibson-Park prompting from the base. Sheehan and Keenan go close to getting over as Ireland edge closer to the line, showing top-class control and continuity. The ball is shipped right thanks to a very good pass under pressure by Keenan … Earls has a sniff of the line and does superbly to bash through a tackle and score! What a start for Ireland! Sexton can’t get the kick right, and it’s a shame only to score five points for such an accomplished attack from the visitors’ first real possession, but Ireland will take it.
2 minutes: A lengthy spell of kick tennis ensues. Hugo Keenan initially miscontrols a ball in the Ireland 22, but manages to tidy up and give it to Sexton. New Zealand ran it from this next possession. Sheehan very nearly affects a turnover but is rucked off the ball, just. A low kick to the corner and it’s Ireland’s lineout five meters from their line.
Beauden Barrett kicks off! He sends the kick down the middle. Ireland have a put-in at the first scrum …
Ireland have 12 defeats from 12 in all their Tests in New Zealand up to this point.
Here comes the Haka.
Don’t forget, you can email me or tweet with any thoughts on the match.
The teams are on the pitchit’s time for the anthems, and kick-off is under five minutes away.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than Eden Park on a dry evening,” the Ireland head coach Andy Farrell tells Sky Sports. “We know the challenge in front of us but we’re excited at the time …
“I want to see some courage. I want to see us being ourselves from the word ‘Go’.”
In the perennial struggle between domestic sport and international, more exquisitely poised in rugby than anywhere else, this weekend marks the opening of the latest window for the international game to set out its stall. The merchants mean business, too, if the strength of the teams announced, so often depleted at this time of year, is anything to go by.
Ireland’s Finlay Bealham has tested positive for Covid so Cian Healy comes into the 22. For New Zealand there are a couple of debutants: Leicester Fainga’anuku is on the wing, and the Chiefs No 8 Pita Gus Sowakula is on the bench.
New Zealand: J. Barrett, Reece, R. Ioane, Tupaea, Fainga’anuku, B. Barrett, Smith, Bower, Taylor, Tu’ungafasi, Retallick, Whitelock, S. Barrett, Cane, Savea. Replacements: Taukeiaho, Tuinukuafe, Taavao-Matau, Sowakula, Papali’i, Christie, Mo’unga, Ennor.
Ireland: Keenan, Earls, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe, Sexton, Gibson-Park, Porter, Sheehan, Furlong, Beirne, Ryan, O’Mahony, Van der Flier, Doris. Replacements: Heffernan, Healy, O’Toole, Treadwell, Conan, Murray, Carbery, Aki.
Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)
Ireland waited a long time to beat New Zealand: 111 years, to be precise. Since they finally achieved the feat in Chicago in 2018, the floodgates have opened, and Ireland now have three victories against the All Blacks on the books, most recently in November 2021.
However, they are still yet to defeat New Zealand in New Zealand. What would it mean for Andy Farrell’s side to do so in the next few weeks? Everything and nothing, but mainly everything, both as a milestone on their journey to next year’s World Cup, and in itself as one of rugby union’s great achievements.
Like Wimbledon and the Tour de France, Covid has not left this event untouched, with a number of players and coaches sidelined. The former Ireland head coach, Joe Schmidt, has even been drafted in as a stand-in by New Zealand to lend a hand.
With England in Australia and Wales in South Africa it’s the start of a bumper summer of rugby, but this one could be the best of the lot.
Kick-off: 8.05am BST.