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Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the big one – it’s New Zealand v Ireland in Auckland, the first Test of the three-Test July series. Ciarán Kennedy here to bring you all the action as it happens in Eden Park, and it’s already been an eventful day in Auckland for Andy Farrell’s squad.

We’ll bring you the latest team news shortly, with kick-off coming up at 8.05am Irish time.

Garry Doyle is our man in New Zealand for the tour and you can read his latest update from Auckland here.

The big news overnight is that Finlay Bealham has been ruled out with Covid, so Tom O’Toole has been promoted to the Ireland bench.

In another twist, Ed Byrne was en route to New Zealand to provide injury cover, but with his flight delayed, former Leinster prop Michael Bent has been drafted in as an emergency measure to take part in the warm-up as one of the additional players. The 36-year-old moved back to New Zealand last year and has been playing for Taranaki.

Is this a good time to ask for your predictions in the comment section below?

So, here’s the updated Ireland squad for today’s game. With Bealham out and O’Toole coming in, Cian Healy switches to 17.

It’s going to be a special day for a number of Ireland players. Winger James Lowe was capped by the Maori All Blacks and represented Tasman and the Chiefs before joining Leinster in 2017. The 29-year-old looked like he was soaking the occasion up on the Eden Park pitch few moments ago.

james-lowe-during-the-warm-up Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

 

You can also read Garry Doyle’s big match preview here.

Any Irish victory over the next three weekends should be celebrated.

Yet it seems like we have had this conversation so often with Irish teams this century, questions put to them about a 28-year gap to their previous win in Paris (2000); the respective 23-year and 49-year waits between victories over the Wallabies and Springboks; the distance from the grand slams of 1948 to 2009; the 111 year-purgatory hoping for a win over New Zealand.

Each time they got there and for sure there is a compelling case to be made that they can do so again this time. Form is with them, just one defeat coming from their last 13 games, some notable scalps along the way: England twice, Argentina with 46 points to spare, Japan by a 55-point margin, New Zealand.

Just 10 minutes until kick-off now, and we’re expecting the teams out on the pitch shortly. Looks like a rainy day in Auckland has cleared up just in time for those who made the long journey down.

ireland-fans-before-the-game Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Anthem time…

And now it’s haka time…

3mins: New Zealand 0 Ireland 0

Beauden Barrett kicks off down the middle, Peter O’Mahony collects, there’s a counter ruck from New Zealand and we have the first scrum of the night within the opening minute of play.

Ireland hold firm and Jamison Gibson-Park scurries out the back to clear the ball. We’ve a bit more kick-tennis and one nervy moment from Hugo Keenan as he controls a ball with his shin, but recovers well. It’s early New Zealand pressure at the moment as the home side work through the phases, and kick to the corner to enter the Ireland 22 for the first time.

7mins: New Zealand 0 Ireland 5

What a start!

An attacking lineout allows Ireland make their way into the New Zealand 22 for the first time. Good, patient phase play then moves Ireland forward with Dan Sheehan heavily involved as the visitors get to within five meters.

Henshaw goes close but New Zealand hold firm, so Ireland switch the point of attack with some smart play between Sexton, Ringrose and Keenan, who does really well to find Keith Earls – the Munster man once again proving he’s a world-class finisher to squeeze through and hand Ireland an early lead. Sexton’s conversion skews wide but Ireland lead by five in Auckland. 

10mins: Ireland 0 New Zealand 5

Oof! A huge tackle from Garry Ringrose on Sam Cane.

Enjoy…

14mins: New Zealand 0 Ireland 5

A scrum penalty for New Zealand, Ireland pinged for illegal wheeling under massive pressure from the All Blacks pack. Some players looked to be struggling with their footing their too. 

19mins: New Zealand 0 Ireland 5

New Zealand trying to work their way into the contest but the Ireland defence has been superb so far. Peter O’Mahony has already had a number of big moments, Josh van der Flier has really been to the fore and Tadhg Beirne has just produced a turnover. A long way to go, but Andy Farrell will really like what he has seen so far.

22mins: New Zealand 7 Ireland 5

Yikes. Just as we were praising Ireland’s defensive effort New Zealand strike. 

It was good patient play from the hosts, who build some territory before Leicester Fainga’anuku gets some space to attack down the left wing. He’s held up just short but New Zealand work the ball infield and Jordie Barrett is on hand to collect an excellent Aaron Smith pass and slice through a small gap to dot down. Beauden Barrett converts and after a slow start, New Zealand lead by two points.

Here’s the New Zealand try. Great work by Smith.

33mins: New Zealand 14 Ireland 5

Out of nowhere, New Zealand pounce again.

Ireland had good territory but were struggling to find a way through the New Zealand defence. As they worked the ball from right to left, a couple of players lost their footing and a few passes were a little too loose. The ball eventually spills and Sevu Reece breaks from his own half to race in New Zealand’s second, which Barrett converts.

In a further blow for Ireland, Johnny Sexton has left the action after what looked like a bang to the head. Joey Carbery is on for the Ireland captain. Ireland need to tighten up now before half-time.

Here’s the Reece try.

TRY – New Zealand 21 (Tupaea) Ireland 5

35mins: New Zealand 21 Ireland 5

Ireland caught flat and New Zealand have a third. Barrett slips a neat kick in behind and Quinn Tupaea bursts through to collect and dot down, with Barrett slotting his third conversion. This is all unravelling very quickly for Ireland now.

38mins: New Zealand 28 Ireland 5

Try number three for the hosts, and it was all down to some brilliant play from Aaron Smith. He spots a gap and cuts straight through from distance, before a well executed chip and chase leaves him a footrace with Earls. The two players dive for the ball, Smith manages to tip it backwards and Ardie Savea is on hand to finish the move. Barrett converts and it’s another killer blow just before half time.

A lot to digest there. Ireland started really well and struck first with that excellent Keith Earls try, but it’s all fallen a little flat since then. At times their attack play has looked too forced and the defence has invited New Zealand pressure. Having been held scoreless for the opening 20 minutes, the All Blacks have already crossed three times and are in full control in Auckland.

Ireland have also lost captain Johnny Sexton to what looked a head injury, and it’s not yet clear if he’ll be returning to the action.

A big 40 minutes ahead. Top up the coffee and we’ll be back with all the second half action shortly.

Try number three for New Zealand came just before half-time.

The second half has just kicked off. Johnny Sexton has failed his HIA and won’t be returning to the action.

Sexton’s head injury bad news for Ireland this early into a three-Test tour. Squad depth really getting tested on this tour.

44mins: New Zealand 28 Ireland 12

That’s the start Ireland needed. They work the ball wide and Garry Ringrose produces a great finish under pressure, following a good offload from James Lowe. Carbery converts brilliantly from the touchline and Ireland have cut the deficit back to 16. Is the comeback on?

This was excellent from Ireland. Top-class execution under extreme pressure from both Lowe and Ringrose.

55mins: New Zealand 35 Ireland 12

Super stuff from Ardie Savea. He breaks from outside the Ireland 22 and has the power and pace to beat three Ireland defenders and score his second try of the game. A winger’s score from the big number eight. Barrett nails the conversion and Ireland’s good work at the start of the second half is already undone.

Aaron Smith is really putting on a show here, his work ahead of that last New Zealand try was outstanding.

Few changes for Ireland too. Keith Earls and Caelan Doris are off, Bundee Aki and Jack Conan are in.

We’re currently with the TMO checking a potential Joey Carbery try…

57mins: New Zealand 35 Ireland 17

Carbery charges for the line and Ioane brings him to ground. The Ireland out-half tries to get the ball down, but loses the ball in the grounding. We then check for potential foul play – Peter O’Mahony feels it was a high tackle from Ioane – but Dickson is happy enough and we go back for an Ireland penalty.

61mins: New Zealand 35 Ireland 12

So close again! This time it looks like Josh van der Flier has got under the posts after some brilliant hands by O’Mahony.

However replays show that that man Rieko Ioane managed to put enough pressure on Van der Flier to make the Leinster man spill the ball. That’s two potential tries prevented by Ioane in the space of two minutes. 

64mins: New Zealand 35 Ireland 12

Dave Heffernan is on for Dan Sheehan.

65mins: New Zealand 35 Ireland 12

Another change as Kieran Treadwell comes in for Tadhg Beirne.

68mins: New Zealand 35 Ireland 12

Dave Heffernan, who was only the pitch a couple of MINUTES, is back off as Dan Sheehan returns to the action.

Not clear what Heffernan’s issue is. Looked like a head injury, but he doesn’t appear to have gone for a HIA so it may be something else. A real blow for the Connacht man either way.

72mins: New Zealand 42 Ireland 12

Peter O’Mahony isn’t happy with what’s going on around the scrum, but Karl Dickson is having none of it and New Zealand capitalise from a scrum under the posts, debutant Pita Gus Sowakula peeling off the back to dive over.

A lot of tired bodies out there now.

76mins: New Zealand 42 Ireland 12

Andrew Porter held up over the line by Sam Whitelock. 

78mins: New Zealand 42 Ireland 19

Bundee Aki comes on a good line to cross from close range and Carbery converts as we enter the final couple of minutes.

New Zealand’s Karl Tu’inukuafe has just been sent to the bin.

80mins: New Zealand 42 Ireland 19

And now Jack Conan is held up over the line. Clock in the red but Ireland still hammering away.

This is getting silly… Another Ireland player held up, appeared to be Josh van der Flier.

So that’s that in Auckland, a big win for the hosts as New Zealand run out 42-19 winners at Eden Park.

After a bright start from Ireland, New Zealand did what they do so well and landed a flurry of quick-fire blows to wrap the game up before half-time.

A disappointing defeat for Ireland, who will rue poor handling and sloppy defending. It could be a long couple of weeks now, with Johnny Sexton set to miss the second Test next Saturday and Dave Heffernan also leaving the pitch with what looked like a head injury.

Ireland now face a massive task in turning this series around against an All Blacks side who looked in rude health today. Still, stranger things have happened.

Our man in New Zealand Garry Doyle will have a match report and all the rection from Auckland shortly, while Garry will also be joining Murray Kinsella for a post-match podcast.

Thanks for joining our live coverage this morning, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. We’re off for a tall, strong cup of coffee.

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Ciarรกn Kennedy

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