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New Zealand overcomes rain, cold, to continue lengthy winning streak against Ireland

New Zealand overcomes rain, cold, to continue lengthy winning streak against Ireland

New Zealand extended its 103-year unbeaten streak against Ireland when it won 21-11 in torrential rain Saturday.
In their first test since October's World Cup quarterfinal loss to France, the All Blacks broke out of an 8-8 halftime deadlock to outscore the visitors 13-3 in the second half, improving their record against the Irish to 20 wins and one draw.
Winger Sitiveni Sivivatu, in the first half, and center Ma'a Nonu, in the second, scored New Zealand's tries while flyhalf Daniel Carter, who created Nonu's try, kicked three penalties and a conversion.
Paddy Wallace, who was a late replacement for Luke Fitzgerald at center for Ireland, scored his team's only try while flyhalf Ronan O'Gara landed two penalties from four attempts.
In the second half, when New Zealand no longer had to run into wind-driven sleet, the superiority of the All Blacks gradually told. They controlled their frustration at the conditions, which severely limited the scope of the match, and concentrated on seizing a single chance to finish off Ireland as Nonu scored.
"We haven't played in conditions as bad as that for a while," captain Richie McCaw said. "It was a tough match but we knew it was going to be like that and a test win is a test win."
The All Blacks entered the match under pressure, seeking to regain the confidence of their supporters after last year's early exit as World Cup favorites.
Coaches Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith, who were reappointed despite being responsible for New Zealand's worst-ever Cup performance, needed a win to answer a stream of personal criticism.
The win was not convincing, but the conditions _ described by Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll as the coldest in which he had ever played _ made an emphatic result impossible and judgment of the team's form will be reserved until next week when the All Blacks face England.
Ireland stayed with New Zealand for the first three quarters of the match, until the All Blacks' persistence and discipline gave them a margin of control.
"We were in it for the first 60 minutes but we couldn't finish it off," O'Driscoll said. "When they scored their second try we were forced to chase it and you always know when you have to chase it against the All Blacks that they're going to open you up."
Ireland took an early lead through a penalty to O'Gara in the eighth minute.
The All Blacks hit back with a superb try to Sivivatu, one of the few bright moments in the match, in the 15th minute. Center Conrad Smith opened up the Irish defense on the counterattack and he timed his last pass superbly to Sivivatu who pushed off O'Driscoll to score.
Ireland hit back five minutes later with a try to Wallace. Two free kicks close to the goalline stretched the All Blacks and Wallace drove past Sivivatu to score.
Carter kicked a 32nd-minute penalty, his first goal from three attempts, to send the teams to halftime at 8-8.
O'Gara nudged Ireland ahead with a penalty in the second minute of the second half but Carter tied the score two minutes later. A further Carter penalty gave the All Blacks their first lead in more than 30 minutes, then Nonu's converted try completed the scoring.
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Scores:
New Zealand 21 (Sitiveni Sivivatu, Ma'a Nonu tries; Daniel Carter conversion, 3 penalties), Ireland 11 (Paddy Wallace try; Ronan O'Gara 2 penalties). HT, 8-8.