New Zealand leave Irish hearts broken with a destructive win setting up a much anticipated England semi-final clash.
Rory Best shed tears during the anthems which indicated this could be his last international test for Ireland. However, in his 123rd cap for the team, the 37-year-old was determined to keep going and reach the semi-final.
New Zealand got early points on the board with a Richie Mo’unga penalty kick in the 5th minute. The three points were followed by an array of pressure from the All Blacks. Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett at the heart of the play with quick offloads and fancy footwork. The Irish defence looked resilient in the barrage until Aaron Smith broke the line to pick up the games first try. An easy conversion for Mo’unga took New Zealand to a 10-0 lead in just 15 minutes.
A poor free kick from Jonathan Sexton squandered Ireland’s first real chance of some dangerous territory and pressure began to build on his team in the first half. The error from Sexton was shortly followed by New Zealand’s second try, a lighting quick offload from Jack Goodhue lead to Smith’s second try. A routine kick from Mo’unga saw the All Black 17 up after 22 minutes.
New Zealand continued to suffocate the men in green leading to their next try. The magical hands and feet of the brilliant Beauden Barrett grasped the try. Two delicate kicks and a dominant foot chase gave his team a 22-0 lead. A surprising miss from Mo’unga with the conversion.
A familiar face in the crowd as Irish golfer Rory McIlroy looks on rather deflated in the 37th minute.
The best Ireland chance of the half came at the end of it with an Irish maul inside the 10-meter mark. It led to nothing with New Zealand’s first defensive test looking a comfortable one.
With the All Blacks going in at half-time with a 22-0 lead, the writing looked seemingly on the wall. Ireland’s World Cup run looked all but finished. A combination of poor discipline and mistakes, along with a prolific New Zealand attack meant the Irishmen needed a second half miracle to win this one.
New Zealand showed no signs of fatigue, it took them only 7 minutes to stamp there mark on the second half. A beauty of a pop pass from Kieron Read gifted Codie Taylor the fourth try. An easy conversion for Richie Mo’unga put New Zealand 29 points up without reply.
Flanker Matt Todd extended the lead in the 61st minute with a try putting the All Blacks 34-0 up.
Rory best left the field in the 62nd minute with a standing ovation which looked like his farewell clap. A truly remarkable career.
Robbie Henshaw dropped the ball at the try line in the 67th minute but pays for his mistake a minute later with a consolation try for Ireland. New Zealand’s defence can be broken after all. New Zealand replied 5 minutes later with a try of their own coming from winger George Bridge. They broke through the Irish defence at ease tonight whenever they wanted to.
Ireland seemed to get into the game a little more in the latter stages with a late penalty try but it was all a little to late.
New Zealand ended the match with family affair with Beauden Barrett passing the ball to brother Jordie Barrett to seal the game with a try. The match ends 46-14 in a truly outstanding New Zealand display.
This leaves New Zealand with a semi-final against England next Saturday morning in Yokohama. This clash of titans between the two tournament favourites is bound to be a classic. For Ireland however watching from the side-lines is sure to be agonising.
Photo – Warwick Gastinger – Creative Commons Licence