Peter O'Mahony said Ireland were punished for failing to protect the ball as a ruthless New Zealand ran out 42-19 victors in Saturday’s first Test.
A promising start at Eden Park turned into a first-half horror show as Ireland handed their hosts the impetus through handling errors, inaccuracy at the ruck and a creaking set-piece.
Just two points separated the sides on the half-hour when Ireland set up camp in the New Zealand 22, but a forced pass from Garry Ringrose led to an intercept try for Sevu Reece and the All Blacks added two further tries in a punishing nine-minute spell to put the game to bed before the interval.
"We started very well and got into our flow nicely," O’Mahony told Sky Sports. "A couple of mistakes, discipline errors, loose plays, dropped balls, and against a quality side like the All Blacks, they punish you on snap ball.
"We’re very pleased with the first 20. We lost our way a little bit then. We came in at half-time and I thought we regrouped very well.
"Overall it was a great Test match. We’ve plenty to work on but it gave us great confidence breaking down a defence as good as New Zealand’s."
Ireland scored tries at either end of the second half through Ringrose and replacement Bundee Aki but a host of scoring opportunities were squandered in between.
"The challenge is to be consistent with our ball skills," said O'Mahony, who assumed the captaincy following Johnny Sexton’s withdrawal during the first half.
"We showed we can break teams down but it’s about making sure we hold onto the ball and keep the pressure on as consistently as possible.
"We broke [New Zealand] down a couple of times. We’ve got to understand how important it is to hold onto the ball, keep phases. They’re one of the best teams in the world, of course they’re going to defend exceptionally well. We’ve got to be on our very best game."
Ringrose admitted Ireland have plenty to work on ahead of next weekend’s second Test in Dunedin.
"It was a good start and then after that we lost a few simple moments, it changed the momentum of the game and they were very clinical in finishing the chances they got," he said.
"I’m never pleased after losing a game so for us it’s being tough and honest with each other, taking individual responsibility and then collectively trying to be better for next week. That will be the focus now."