10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Let it it be laid out plain and simple, that New Zealand were simply awesome in almost every aspect of their play and totally worthy of the mantle they wear this night. But let is also be said that anything less would not have done against an Irish side who refused to roll over in the face of an awful onslaught that lasted the entire game.
To this observer, Ireland were never going to win this game against a Kiwi side that had speedsters even in the front row. A side who were prepared to run ball from every and any angle. They drove at Ireland in waves and when they swept the ball wide the after-burners their backs possesed threatened to scorch the heather in the far-away hills.
Yet, despite the weaving runs of Glen Horton and the explosive pace of Ben Atiga, on the 20 minute mark, they led by just three points, 6-3, and were then denied a try when Richie Lane turned and manged a lunging kick to deny Rudolffe Wulf a try.
Minutes later the first Baby Blacks try arrived courtesy of flanker Jonathan Poff and when the metronomic Luke McAllister added the points to Anthony Koonwaiyou's - first of three - try minutes later, one feared that this Irish side were about to be put to the sword.
Gareth Steenson quite rightly opted for goal in the 30th minute (20-6), Koonwaiyou, scored his second after that, and when the Kiwis were pinged again seven minutes later, us wise heads looking on, would have looked to Steenson to reduce the deficit with another three pointer and get to the sanctuary of the dressing-room for a welcome respite and the rejuvenating words of the management - Dream On.
Instead, Steenson, after a quick glance at his captain David Gannon, fired the penalty into touch and from the line-out, Ireland mashed the Kiwi defence to score on the right.
It was an audacious move which led to a simple try and if it raised Irish spirit's, it probably frightened the life out of the Kiwis.
If not quite that then it certainly made them aware that this side were not for killing that easy.
In the opening minute of the restart, when Ireland infringed on the half way, Blacks captain Ben Atiga immediately summoned McAllister for a pot at goal. Get points (more) on the board. There was to be no mucking around with this Irish side, the message read.
Steenson cancelled out that score (28-14) and when Koonwaiyou went in for his third try in the 60th minute, the Irish might has been forgiven if they'd buckled.
But they didn't. Instead they replicated the try of the opening half - a Steenson touch-find, line-out take and drive and a try wide on the left.
Two scores separating the sides with ten minutes to go and then reduced to 14 when John Heaarty was binned for throwing a box. No malice, just frustration, disappoinment.
But in those closing ten, New Zealand ran in two more tries, from replacements, Tii Paulo and Hosia Gear, both scores converted by McAllister.
New Zealand the better side, no question. But the final table shows Ireland ranked number two in the world and no-one can have any quibble whatsoever with that.