Ireland brushed aside newcomers Russia 62-12 to remain in charge of their pool ahead of their big World Cup showdown with Italy next weekend.
Ireland, with only six players from the side that upset the Wallabies with that memorable 15-6 win at Eden Park last weekend, scored nine tries to two to maintain their three-point lead over Australia in Pool C heading into the final group games.
A mass of green among the 25,661 capacity Rotorua International Stadium crowd generated a virtual ‘home’ ground atmosphere for Ireland.
Ireland steamed to a 43-0 lead eight minutes after halftime before taking off their key men and giving Russia the chance to get on the scoreboard with two late tries.
The Irish will lock up Pool C with victory over Six-Nations rivals Italy in Dunedin next Sunday, with the Italians to first play the United States in Nelson on Tuesday.
Fly-half Ronan O’Gara, the official man-of-the-match in his 115th Test, extended his Irish scoring record to 1,054 points with 15 points from six conversions and a penalty before he was replaced with 15 minutes remaining.
“A few guys got opportunities this week and it was important we carry on the momentum,” said stand-in Irish skipper Leo Cullen.
“We have a new challenge next week. Russia posed us some problems especially at the start of the second half, but we will take the win.”
The Irish put the Russian defence to the test early with 14 phases on their try-line before they lost fly-half Konstantin Rachkov to the sin bin for a deliberate knock down.
In the time Rachkov was off the field Ireland cashed in with 14 points from converted tries to Fergus McFadden off an O’Gara kick and outstanding open-side flanker Sean O’Brien.
O’Gara was at the heart of the Irish attacks and his goalkicking and general kicking was immaculate.
But when Rashov returned late in the first quarter the Irish scoring slowed and it took them until late in the half to rush on three tries in as many minutes.
New Zealand-born scrum-half Isaac Boss dived over and planted the ball next to the post and centre Keith Earls finished off a break from winger Andrew Trimble.
The Irish finished the half in storming fashion when Trimble toed through off Andrey Garbuzov’s error to score for an emphatic 36-0 halftime lead.
O’Gara’s sideline conversion attempt struck an upright costing him an unblemished goalkicking performance.
Earls sliced through for his second try eight minutes after the break and was taken straight off along with prop Cian Healy as Ireland looked ahead to their next big match with Italy.
Russia had their best moment in the match when fullback Vasily Artemyev scored a classy try, slicing through and then standing up opposite number Rob Kearney to score in the 51st minute.
The Russians had another ‘victory’ when winger Denis Simplikevich brushed off McFadden and Trimble to score the Bears’ second try on the hour.
But Ireland powered on with the replacements’ bench cleared and they added three more tries to Rob Kearney, Shane Jennings and Tony Buckley.
Russia, playing at their first World Cup, finish their participation against the Wallabies in Nelson next Saturday.