Dear, oh dear. Ireland’s abysmal record in Rugby World Cup quarter finals continued in Tokyo as a rampant All Blacks outfit romped to a seven-try victory, setting up a tantalising semi final against England next week.
New Zealand came into this knockout tie on a 17-game unbeaten streak at World Cups, stretching all the way back to the 2007 edition. In eight quarter final appearances, they have failed just once, to the French in that shock 20-18 defeat in Cardiff 12 years ago.
Ireland arrived here in Tokyo with six losses in six quarter final appearances, but this loss will hurt the most. This was the last stand for head coach Joe Schmidt and skipper Rory Best and it was a sad way for two glittering careers to end. Schmidt and Best have had some great days, but this was a traumatic way to to call it a day.
New Zealand have reached the Rugby World Cup semi-final after dominating Ireland in Tokyo, setting up a date with England
New Zealand scored three first-half tries, and then continued to score in the second half as Ireland looked poor on the day
Codie Taylor of New Zealand scores his team’s fourth try as Conor Murray of Ireland tries in vain to stop him getting over
Ireland players Keith Earls (left) and Jonny Sexton (right) look dejected after New Zealand score yet another try against them
New Zealand: B Barrett, S Reece (J Barrett 63), J Goodhue (SB Williams 53), A Lienert-Brown, G Bridge; R Mo’unga, A Smith (TJ Perenara 61); J Moody (O Tu’ungafasi 48), C Taylor (D Coles 61), N Laulala (A Ta’avao 48); B Retallick (M Todd 57), S Whitelock; A Savea, S Cane (S Barrett 40), K Read (c)
Tries: Smith (2), B Barrett, Taylor, Todd, Bridge, J Barrett
Ireland: R Kearney (Larmour 53), K Earls, G Ringrose (Larmour 5-11), R Henshaw (Larmour 21-27), J Stockdale, J Sexton (J Carbery, 64), C Murray (McGrath 74); C Healy (D Kilcoyne 50), R Best (c) (N Scannell 63), T Furlong (A Porter, 61); I Henderson (T Beirne 50), J Ryan, P O’Mahony (R Ruddock 57), J van der Flier, CJ Stander
Tries: Henshaw, penalty
Referee: Nigel Owens
And how about New Zealand? They were simply sublime. From the physicality of their tight five to the dynamism of Ardie Savea to the calm leadership of Kieran Read, they laid a platform for scrum-half Aaron Smith – who bagged a brace – and the dual playmaking combo of Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett to run the show. Their outside backs were operating on a different plain.
‘I’m nervous,’ said Schmidt an hour before the game. A worrier at the best of times, Ireland’s forensic head coach would have lied awake at night worrying about a doomsday scenario like this. A half where New Zealand hit top gear and Ireland failed to turn up. When both of those occurrences line up, you are left with the events of the opening 40 minutes at Tokyo Stadium.
Ireland were nervy, pedantic and error-strewn while their opponents were sharp, skilful and explosive.
Inspired by the superb Aaron Smith, the best passer in the game, they dragged a frazzled Ireland from touchline to touchline using their pair of classy playmakers in Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett while the likes of Kieran Read and Brodie Retallick showed a deftness of touch to send fellow forwards surging into gaps As the scores began to rack up, Schmidt’s men looked increasingly frazzled.
It had begun brightly for Ireland with a neat little switch between Conor Murray, Jacob Stockdale allowed Johnny Sexton to chip into space for the Keith Earls to chase. New Zealand then tried same thing through a Jack Goodhue grubber. It was like two prize fighters getting a feel for the bout.
New Zealand’s scrum-half Aaron Smith scores a try for his side during the first half as Ireland’s players watch on
Aaron Smith was able to touch the ball down for New Zealand’s first try, which ended up being the first of many on the day
But it started to become abundantly clear which team were the heavyweights when CJ Stander was rag dolled by a twin tackle from Read and Sam Whitelock. A little mini battle won the All Blacks.
A Mo’unga bomb then caused havoc in the backfield before Sevu Reece had his first gallop of the evening.
There was an early casualty with Garry Ringrose heading to the blood bin. A clash of heads with his fellow centre Robbie Henshaw meaning Ringrose needed some stitching up. Further afield, Stockdale was penalised for obstructing an intended pass to Reece. Mo’unga stepped up and made it 3-0
Jordan Larmour – on for Ringrose – was called into action straight away as the Leinster starlet had to make tracks to snuff out a loose ball downfield after Earls was dispossess by Goodhue. There was a moment of brilliant acrobatics by Stockdale earlier when the Ulster wing rose high to steal a kick-off. It was all happening.
Henshaw – heavily bandaged from that early collision – then dropped his first carry into All Blacks traffic. That mistake allowed New Zealand to attack in waves. Mo’unga and Barrett swapped at first receiver regularly as Read put his fellow forwards through small gaps on either shoulder.
Ireland were holding on but the dam broke eventually when Aaron Smith, spotting a massive gap around the fringe of the ruck, sniped through for the opening try. Mo’unga converted as the men in black surged into a 10-0 lead. New Zealand looked razor-sharp in the build-up to that attack. It was ominous.
You need to be top of your game to stand a chance against the All Blacks, and Ireland looked decidedly sloppy in the opening quarter – dropping balls and, in Sexton’s case, missing a punt to touch on a penalty advantage.
Smith was then able to add his second, as New Zealand ran away with the game even before the half-time whistle
New Zealand full back Beauden Barrett smiles broadly as he adds another try to New Zealand’s tally in the first half
Soon, New Zealand had their second try and it was a thing of beauty. Reece, coming off his wing to make the overlap, took a clever, disguised pass from Goodhue before sending his fellow Crusaders George Bridge into open country. A despairing tackle from Earls halted his progress but Smith, so insinuative as usual, repeated his earlier trick and powered his way over from close range. The Kiwi scrum-half was having quite the game. Mo’unga blasted over the touchline conversion for good measure and Ireland found themselves 17-0 in arrears.
It was all New Zealand until Peter O’Mahony lifted the siege with a much-needed turnover penalty in the 24th minute. It was a brief respite but, predictably, a promising Ireland attack was halted when Earls spilled the balls in contact. Ireland’s eighth after just 28 minutes. You simply can’t do that against opposition of this class.
New Zealand were looking so comfortable in possession, changing the point of attack and using their twin playmakers to devastating effect.
A late hit from Sam Cane on Sexton handed Ireland a penalty and the chance to get some much-needed territory and possession. Just when Ireland had a platform to attack, however, another calamity arrived. Yet another ball went to ground and Beauden Barrett chipped ahead and… well… there was only ever going to be one winner in that footrace as the All Blacks full-back touched down in the corner. It was 22-0 then.
For all New Zealand’s ruthless brilliant, Ireland were so off their game. When a Sexton pass cannoned off Cian Healy, it summed up their first-half display.
Ireland had one last chance to get something out of the half but after a barrage of one-out carries, O’Mahony – arguably Ireland’s best player in a traumatic first half – was penalised for a shoulder charge at the ruck. Mo’unga booted the ball off the pitch and Ireland couldn’t get into the sheds quickly enough.
It was an emotional goodbye for Rory Best, as the 37-year-old hooker played his last game for Ireland on Saturday
Richie Mo’Unga was mostly on target with his kicking, but the All Blacks didn’t end up needing his points
Any hopes of a second-half fightback were quickly dispelled when the outstanding Read popped the simplest of offlaods to Codie Taylor, who crashed under the posts for the fourth try of the evening. Mu’unga made it 29-0 and this was getting embarrassing for Ireland.
Most worryingly, Hansen began to clear his bench with the ominous sight of Sonny Bill Williams entering the fray in the 54th minute for Goodhue, who had a superb shift at outside centre.
This was grim for Ireland, but you could only sit back admire the sheer brilliance of the All Blacks. They brought plenty of physicality too and bullied a team that were looking to just keep the score down here.
It was a matter of when, not if, the next New Zealand try would arrive and it was another beautifully-constructed score. Mo’unga’s cross-kick found Reece in aces of space and from the next ruck, Matt Todd, on a replacement for Retallick, blasted his way through some weary Ireland tacklers to score.
Then the call came for Best and Sexton to leave the action. This was not the finish that Best envisaged to this career as he trudged off the field.
Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw did end up scoring a consolation try for his team, but it was too late to mount a comeback
Golf star Rory McIlroy was in the stands for the match, and he clearly wasn’t impressed with Ireland’s first-half performance
At least Ireland avoided the ignominy of being nilled – scant consolation and all that – when Robbie Henshaw showed great strength to barge his way over the line. Henshaw had early been denied when the Leinster midfielder failed to regather a chip ahead by Joey Carbery, but he wouldn’t be denied a few minutes later.
Normal resumed thereafter as Bridge finished off another flowing move to score a deserved try for a busy night’s work. Nigel Owens then awarded Ireland a penalty try when Stander’s lunge for the try-line was illegally halted by Todd. It made the smallest of dents on the scoreline: 41-14
Unsurprisingly, Beauden Barrett was named man-of-the-match before he sent his brother, Jordie, on as a second half replacement, in for the seventh try of the night.
More World Cup heartache for Ireland, but New Zealand are looking strong favourites to secure a third consecutive World Cup. That semi-final against England next weekend should be a hell of a contest.
It was a bad day for Ireland fans overall, and they will be going home after another failure at a World Cup quarter-final