15. Rob Kearney – 6
The European Player of the Year let nobody down, halting the black tide with some acrobatic last-ditch tackling and attempting some characteristically courageous counter-attacks. Was sent rapidly to earth in the first half by Julian Savea on one of these forays, which summed up the evening nicely.
14. Fergus McFadden – 5
Floundered as the All Blacks flooded his wing with deadly runners but, admirably, Mcfadden never threw the towel in. Rewarded for perseverance with Ireland’s only try.
13. Brian O’Driscoll – 8
His critics may remember an errant pass that eventually led to the Kiwis’ second score. That would be a shame, as the skipper was brilliant in every other facet, saving his side’s bacon with turnovers, stepping up in defence and posing a significant running threat. How Declan Kidney missed him in the Six Nations.
12. Keith Earls – 7
Very sharp in the opening stages and latched onto O’Driscoll’s offload when the contest was still alive. Eventually overrun by Conrad Smith but a sterling effort from a proud Munsterman.
11. Simon Zebo – 6
Looked for work and shackled Zac Guildford, the only member of New Zealand’s starting backline that looked close to human. His pace vindicated Kidney’s selection.
10. Jonathan Sexton – 7
Started the match superbly, taking the right options from the gain-line and hurling fearless passes out wide. Faded as the game wore on enhanced his reputation as an exceptional front-foot fly-half.
9. Conor Murray – 5
Did not play referee Nigel Owens very well, which unfortunately meant that his forwards were put under unnecessary pressure. Also overcooked a box kick prior to Savea’s opening try. Costly mistake.
1. Cian Healy – 7
Quite literally worked himself into the ground. Simply immense shift in the loose and only misses top marks because the lingering habit of folding in the tight.
2. Rory Best – 8
A bloke you’d love next to you in the trenches, Best tackles his guts out for the entirety, showcasing exactly how he brought Ulster to the Heineken Cup final. Won the turnover that led to McFadden’s try in a strong all-round game.
3. Declan Fitzpatrick – 7
Hugely encouraging debut from the Ulsterman, especially in the current climate of scrum-phobia in Ireland. Was a rock at tighthead, which – against Tony Woodcock, New Zealand’s most-capped prop – was a fantastic introduction.
4. Dan Tuohy – 5
Could have been better at re-starts, which Dan Carter used to get his team right back at the tourists’ throats. Overshadowed by the more dynamic Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock.
5. Donnacha Ryan – 6
Angry and destructive in the loose, a calm, reliable target in the lineout. Decent outing.
6. Peter O’Mahoney – 6
Solid at the lineout, a nuisance at the breakdown and showed slick hands before the try, but lacks the rampaging pace that the likes of Kieran Read and Victor Vito change games with. Certainly worth persevering with, though.
7. Sean O’Brien – 8
A match for Richie McCaw to most breakdowns, which is a huge compliment in itself. Offered himself for numerous lion-hearted ball-carries and will only get wilier with time in the seven shirt.
8. Jamie Heaslip – 6
Typified Ireland’s futile industry. Went off like a madman, evidently eager to exorcise the demons of his 2010 sending-off. Tried bravely but eventually was enveloped by his illustrious back-row adversaries.
Worryingly, Eoin Reddan wasn’t at his sharpest, although the calming influence of Ronan O’Gara helped. Darren Cave had an eight minutes to forget after replacing Earls but the forwards who entered the fray – Sean Cronin, Ronan Loughney, Donncha O’Callaghan and Kevin McLaughlin – tried their hearts out.
15. Israel Dagg – 8, 14. Zac Guildford – 6, 13. Conrad Smith – 9, 12. Sonny Bill Williams – 7, 11. Julian Savea – 8, 10. Dan Carter – 9, 9. Aaron Smith – 8, 8. Kieran Read – 9, 7. Richie McCaw – 8, 6. Victor Vito – 7, 5. Sam Whitelock – 8, 4. Brodie Retallick – 7, 3. Owen Franks – 7, 2. Andrew Hore – 6, 1. Tony Woodcock – 6
Unsurprisingly given the comprehensive nature of the scoreline, there were some simply awesome performances from this New Zealand side as they started out on the road to 2015 in considerable style. Dan Carter was close to his iconic best; Kieran Read toyed with Ireland like a sadistic big brother; Conrad Smith sliced Ireland’s backline to ribbons. Oh, and a bloke called Julian Savea introduced himself to international rugby with a hat-trick. This immense generation isn’t finished yet.