Aaron Smith scored two tries as the All Blacks handed Ireland yet another World Cup quarter-final defeat with a 46-14 win in Tokyo on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
This was another quarter-final that Ireland would rather consign to history. Irish fans, who were in full voice to drown the haka, had very little to shout about throughout the match. The defeat, Ireland’s seventh in a World Cup quarter-final, brought a rather disappointing end to what has been a fantastic era of rugby under Joe Schmidt.
Ireland simply did not execute their game plan in the decisive exchanges in the first half. Instead of holding on to the ball and grinding down the All Blacks defence, as they did so well last November, Ireland tried to strike off every bit of possession they saw, throwing offloads and loose passes which led to far too many errors in midfield.
Ireland were also unusually poor in defence, slipping 29 of their 137 tackles. By comparison, the All Blacks missed only 11 of their 149 tackles.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen could not have wished for a better start as his side opened the scoring through a Richie Mo’unga penalty and never looked back. The defending champions were simply exceptional as they defended well and punished every Irish mistake with a try.
A 99% first-half tackle success rate shut down the threat of Ireland centres Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw. As per their character, the All Blacks also threatened through a pinpoint kicking game, with both Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett asking questions through a combination of up-and-unders and crossfield kicks.
A brace from Aaron Smith, both scored through clever snipes off the back of a ruck, left Ireland with much to do. That soon became a mountain as a costly error in midfield was punished with Mo’unga toeing a loose pass through to allow Beauden Barrett to score an excellent counter-attacking try, putting the All Blacks 22-0 up after the opening half hour.
Ireland needed a fast start in the second but soon found themselves defending their tryline. Hansen rang the changes, possibly in anticipation of a semi-final against England, but the All Blacks continued their momentum through tries from Codie Taylor and Matt Todd.
The Irish pulled tries back through Henshaw and a rather harsh penalty try, but that was simply a consolation as George Bridge and Jordie Barrett both cantered in to douse any hope Ireland may have had of a comeback.
New Zealand – Tries: Aaron Smith (2), Beauden Barrett, Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, George Bridge, Jordie Barrett. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (4). Penalty: Mo’unga.
Ireland – Tries: Robbie Henshaw, penalty try. Conversion: Joey Carbery.
New Zealand – 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Ardie Savea, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Sonny Bill Williams, 23 Jordie Barrett.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour.
Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images