Rugby World Cup: New Zealand overpower Ireland to reach semi-finals

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New Zealand will meet England in the World Cup semi-finals after condemning Ireland to a seventh quarter-final exit with a 46-14 hammering in Tokyo.

Two tries from Aaron Smith and one by Beauden Barrett helped the All Blacks to a 22-0 lead at half-time.

The holders scored further tries through Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, George Bridge and Jordie Barrett.

Robbie Henshaw’s score and a penalty try did nothing to recover what was a disastrous display for Ireland.

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Billed as the defining final chapter in Joe Schmidt’s tenure as head coach, Ireland’s World Cup in Japan will go down as another failure with no indication that the team are any closer to the world’s elite than they were when they exited at the same stage four years ago.

This was Ireland’s second defeat in the tournament – their 19-12 Pool A loss to hosts Japan having deprived them of a last-eight meeting with South Africa and a possibly easier route to a first semi-final.

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Meanwhile, the All Blacks will move into the semi-finals as even stronger favourites to lift a third successive Webb Ellis Cup than they were at the start of the tournament having produced a display that few, if any, sides would be capable of delivering.

The narrative from the Ireland camp remained consistent throughout the week-long build-up: they had to produce an almost flawless display if they were to even run New Zealand close.

However, not for a single minute of Saturday’s contest did it look as though Ireland possessed the tools capable of derailing the champions.

Indeed, it was New Zealand who produced what was infinitely closer to perfect rugby, taking their game to a level with which Ireland could not contend.

After Richie Mo’unga had kicked his side ahead, Smith navigated the All Blacks deep into Ireland territory before darting through a gap to score.

Although still in the first quarter, the signs were looking ominous for Ireland, with New Zealand winning the battle at the breakdown and punching holes in the defence as they stretched their play left, right and back again through the scintillating back three of Barrett, Sevu Reece and Bridge.

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Ireland needed a spark and had the opportunity to push New Zealand onto their try-line with a kick to the corner, but Johnny Sexton missed his touch and two minutes later the ball was back at the opposite end of the pitch, with Smith diving over again from close range.

The third try, which killed off any faint Irish hopes of a revival, came from an Ireland move inside the New Zealand 22, with Reece’s hit on Sexton dislodging the ball, allowing Barrett to kick through and gather beyond the line.

After spending much of 2019 clinging onto the form of last year as an indicator of their potential, Ireland’s defeat by New Zealand in Tokyo presents a far clearer picture of their place on the world stage than their win over the All Blacks 10 months ago did.

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The manner of the loss leaves little room for an argument that Ireland can be considered among the top sides in the world.

By the time Taylor dived over on 48 minutes after his side had worked the ball through the phases, it was clear that New Zealand were operating on a level that Ireland were not capable of reaching.

For all of Ireland’s shortcomings, the All Blacks were relentlessly wonderful.

Their fifth try arrived after the forwards set-up field position for Mo’unga to kick crossfield for Reece to gather and present for Todd to score.

Ireland did score eventually, as Henshaw cut back against the grain to put his side on the board 10 minutes from time.

Bridge and Jordie Barrett, having been introduced from the bench, benefited from more superb New Zealand ball movement to add further scores either sides of Ireland’s penalty try.

 

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